Here we are, not just facing a whole new year, but a whole new century. So what challenges will the new millennium bring? What problems? What opportunities? What lessons from the past can we use to our advantage in the new century?
There was a time early in this century when Congress actually considered closing the Patent Office. Many of the leaders of the time believed that everything that could be invented already had been. After all, didnt we have the wireless and the telephone? And up in Detroit, a guy named Ford was saying that everyone soon would be able to buy a horseless carriage.
One thing is certain, though, at this point: The next century will be different. The advances in technology will continue probably even more rapidly than in the recent past. If the past is any indicator, everything will change. Our markets will change. Our people will change. And all of that will necessitate changes in how we manage our businesses.
So, how do we prepare for all this change? Traditionally we prepare for the new year by making a list of resolutions. The list usually consists of good intentions. We plan to eat healthier foods, exercise more, and in general, make an effort to become better people. Occasionally we actually keep our resolutions, at least for a time.
The secret to improving the quality of life in the coming century begins with you. You are a leader, and you need to be the best you can be in your workplace, in your home and in your community. If you are a good leader, you can improve the quality of life for the people around you. And it will improve exponentially in ever-widening circles. The positive influence you can generate will spread as others become energized.
One of the greatest gifts you, as a leader, can give to the people around you is gift of flexibility. Teach them that change is always with us and that the rate of change is sure to escalate. Going from the horseless carriage to the computer chip will be nothing compared to the change we will face in the coming years.
Some change will be good for us, some will not. Regardless, as a nation, we need the ability to react quickly, to take advantage of the positive changes, and to avoid or eliminate the changes that pose a threat. Our greatest enemy will always be complacency. And fear.
But with complacency and fear comes decline. If we are to remain a vital society, we must continue to respond to change and use change to our advantage.
It begins with one person. As a leader, you are the one who can make the difference. You will be the one who will inspire others to keep the wheels of progress moving forward at an ever-increasing pace. You can inspire people to avoid complacency, and to see the opportunities that lie hidden in every change.
So add one more resolution to your list. As the pages of the calendar turn, resolve to share the gift of flexibility with those around you.
Remember that you represent the Power of One.
William Armstrong, a management consultant for 30 years, is president of Pittsburgh-based management consulting firm Armstrong/Associates. Reach him at (412)276-7396 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.