The organization of the 21st century: Agility, Possibility Thinking, Trust & Self-Leadership

Leading self, others, organizations. Not straightforward in organizations that are facing massive, fast paced and yet unknown transformations. ‘Leaders” are often experiencing an existential crisis, dixit Marleen Boen.

We live and work in unprecedented times. Never before were changes this many and this shortly apart. Innovations are shaking up organizations both literally and figuratively. Marleen Boen, Managing Director and Founder of the Training & Coaching Square, often witnesses people experiencing feelings of powerlessness because of all of those transformations. She also sees people wanting to get transformations over with, so we can be done with it.

Marleen: ‘This type of thinking is 20th Century thinking, it is not a recipe for thinking in the 21st Century. Both leaders and employees are insecure and even in fear. Fear for the unknown, to loose control and become dependent on others that are capable of following up on these very rapid transformations. The traditional belief in ‘the leader’ is gone, because not even he or she has the answers people are looking for. Self-steering teams are based on self-management of every member on the team and less on management by one person. In the past, the vision of the company was a clear target, today it is only setting the direction.’

How can companies be successful in this context? Four dimensions are playing a role in defining the possible here according to Marleen. Marleen: “one of them is being Agile, as it is crucial to be able to follow the ever faster system and process transformations. In our coaching journeys, we always look at Agility through 5 subdimensions. This increases the complexity and allows for clear analysis. All 5 of these subdimensions are necessary to become an Agile individual and to evolve as towards an Agile organization.”

Marleen recently read the book ‘The Fearless Company’ by Amy C. Edmondson. Marleen: “Organizations that are driving decisions based on fear, will not make it. The pressure becomes to high on the employees, which causes suffocation. Possibility thinking or thinking in possibilities or options is a smarter choice. This is the belief that you are capable of more than you are aware off. It also concerns trust and having faith in future evolutions. Trust would then replace the ‘everything that is new is bad’ thinking. Evolving will happen together instead of top-down. The responsibility is no longer only with the leaders, but with every individual in the organization. This makes self-leadership a condition sine qua none: What am I capable off, what do I want, what do I choose in line with my values and vision?”

Fear makes it so that you color in between the lines. This is the way to find solutions for past problems. The challenges of today are from a different complexity. Marleen: “We are considering things that we have never experienced before, like AI and ultrafast digitization. Instead if quickly doing one transformation after the other, Organizations would be better off to focus on becoming Agile, introducing Possibility Thinking, self-leadership and collaboration in trust. This way, they will be able to deal with future transformations and can keep the workload at a manageable level.”

‘Agility’: the much needed flexibility of humans in 21st Century Organizations

Trust – The Cornerstone of strong leadership

Thinking in possibilities as a cure for binary ‘either – or’ thinking

‘Self-Leadership’: a prerequisite to reach your full potential and put it at the service of yourself and the organisation