Authority

On the road to…..?

We are in a time of unprecedented turbulence, at the conjunction of changes in geopolitics, technology, demographics and the universal existential threat to our environment. The status quo has gone absent.

We need to step into our own authority, to be the genuine author of our own lives.

In his introduction to “The Alchemist” Paulo Coelho identifies four barriers that stop us; firstly that we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible; secondly that we will hurt those around us if we set off on the path we want to follow; thirdly the fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and lastly the guilt and fear of realising what we have always wanted. (If you haven’t read it, put it on your list – it is a beautiful little book)

More prosaically, we talk about the path from dependence, through independence to interdependence. Each state is largely a choice, with the hurdles above looming in front of us.

The turbulence we are in is key. All of us in the West alive today have been brought up in conditions where dependence has been encouraged – reward for conformity. Dependence on an employer, or the state. Independence achieved either by climbing to the top of the pile, or becoming an outlier and abandoning the pile altogether. True interdependence largely countered by a culture of competition.

In the very near future we will find out who is right about the impact of Artificial Intelligence – those who say it will destroy jobs, or those who say it will create them. Whoever is right though, it seems sensible to hedge our bets.

To identify what it is we really want to do, or are prepared to commit to, wholeheartedly.

To seek mastery of something that gives us independence, and allows us to make a choice with whom, and for what purpose, we are willing to be interdependent.

To step into our own authority.

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Dependence, Independence, Interdependence and Permission

Most of us are brought up to be dependent – on other’s approval, on “experts”, and to needing permission.

In the industrial era, it made sense, hierarchies were effective means of command and control, and compliance meant the difference between earning a living, or not.

As technology and social structures changed, we moved towards greater independence, often with money at the heart of it. Lifelong employment disappeared, and with it notions of loyalty and duty towards an employer, to be replaced by independence  for those who had marketable skills, or independent means. It gave us a sort of lonely freedom Рnot being governed, but without the work community that often provides support and meaning.

The most successful are now moving beyond this to interdependence – retaining all the options of independence, but choosing communities and “tribes” of those they choose to share their work and lives with. I work with a lot of fast growing businesses, and this feature – an interdependence with colleagues and clients – is a very visible feature. It gives them purpose, adaptability, flexibility and huge capability and attractiveness.

Many established organisations, and most of government, has not yet understood this. They pay lip service to it without understanding its implications. A dangerous place to be complacent. Those centralised institutions, from Head Office to Westminster, are becoming less and less important to those with the talent to create the future.

Adam Lent has written an excellent blog on the RSA site, which examines what 21st Century organisations might look like. In my view, worth the five minutes it will take to read.

The future is arriving faster than you think, whether you’re ready or not.

It offers immense opportunity, but won’t ask permission.