Forward looking plans will ensure survival in turbulent landscape

Thursday July 22 2021
Re-imagining oneself

The ability to continually re-imagine oneself is the key to staying relevant as a leader. PICTURE | POOL


Knowledge has never been advanced by conforming. Conformity restricts one to the known and as a consequence, conformists will never venture into unknown territory. The Queen of England is often seen in her gold-embossed carriage on special occasions.

This carriage is supposedly built with bits and pieces of history including fragments of Henry VIII’s warship as well as pieces of wood from Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Kensington Palace, and even a supposed piece of Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree. It was commissioned in 1760.

The state coach is more expensive than the most expensive cars on the road today but as the Queen herself once said, a ride in it was a horrible experience. So, in spite of all the history, gold and cost, the coach reminds us that not even the best of yesteryear can serve the demands of today.

The ability to continually re-imagine oneself is the key to staying relevant as a leader. The continued relevance of any organisation lies in its ability to reimagine itself and where it can be next. A great leader must embrace one fundamental truth — that there is a possibility of a tomorrow that has no bearing on today. This is what we prepare leaders for in our “Re-Imagine Yourself One on One” leadership programme.

Many leaders are victims of over structuring. If you over structure, how will you know the events and technology that are on the way to make your dream obsolete? Many brilliant CEOs are suffering from this today. In the world in which we live, five years is a very long time and the change that will happen in the next five years will dwarf changes that happened in the last hundred years. We are talking of totally new concepts that we had no knowledge of.

String of possibilities


For example, after the successful expedition by Richard Branson to the fringes of space, the possibility for commercial space travel has just become more real. What industries will come with that? Does this make the possibility of commercial spacecraft closer to being real?

Do not build a structure that is so rigid that it cannot make the right turns when the demand to turn comes. Every innovation births a string of possibilities. Think of all the things that are today tied to the computer. Think of the things that get their life from the internet.

Nokia was started in 1865 as a single paper mill operation. From that humble beginning they ventured successfully into cable, paper products, rubber boots, tyres, television sets and eventually into mobile phones.

Nokia released their mobile phone operations in 1991. By 1998, Nokia had become the number one selling phone in the world, kicking out Motorola. They had brought their native Finland to the centre of the innovation map globally.

Nokia — the same company that prided itself in always transforming from one thing to another got to a point where they underestimated a lot of things - especially the smartphone revolution. They paid for it dearly and in September 2013, Nokia announced that it was selling its Devices & Services division to Microsoft.

The brand power of Nokia could not save them. Their deep pockets could not save them. The intelligence of their leadership and team could not save them. Let this be a warning to all leaders. The tsunami of change is blowing across the world. No industry will be spared and if you are not riding the waves of change, you will become a part of history and warnings for how not to lead.

We live in an era where the future has no regard for the success of the present and those who do not know this become victims of the future they so looked forward to. That future will either make you or break you depending on your preparedness.

Wale Akinyemi is the convenor of the Street University ( and chief transformation officer, PowerTalks; [email protected]