Greatness is a product of leaders that are proactive and adaptable

Friday September 17 2021

The future belongs to those whose thinking develops as it progresses. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Many leaders get flustered when they lack all the answers. The truth is that leaders are not prophets. They are speculators and speculation can go in any direction. Leaders look at trends and attempt to predict what the future portends. However, from time to time something new emerges and sends everyone back to the drawing board. These are called disruptions. Disruptions are like waves of the ocean. You cannot fight them. You need to learn how to ride them. You need a growth mindset or as I wrote about in my last article, a kaizen mindset.

This is where it pays for you not to know it all. When you have a mindset that realises that all you know is not all there is to be known, then you are in a good place. And in accepting that things are changing faster and in more diverse ways than ever before, then only will you appreciate that one of the greatest must-have virtues today is the ability to be adaptive.

It takes a great deal of humility to be adaptable. It takes humility for a person that everyone has looked up to to accept that they do not have all the answers and that they need to learn some things. It takes humility to embrace this vulnerability.

By not imbibing kaizen as a way of life, you will be left behind, lack capacity to adapt and become an object of fun and derision. Continuous improvement is possible only when you allow yourself to embrace the fact that you do not know it all.

When in 1976, the Apple dream was birthed by Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage, in Palo Alto, California, no one knew what it would become. If you have the future all figured out and planned, the likelihood of you being relevant in that future is slim.

Forseeing outcomes


The future belongs to those whose thinking develops as it progresses. The future is not for those who are structured and rigid. Overstructuring a dream guarantees that it might not last if it even kicks off. If you overstructure, how will you know the events and technology along your path to make your dream obsolete?

Apple came from computers, servers, the iBook, the iPod, the iMac, Power Mac, Apple mouse, Apple keyboard and in June 2007, the iPhone was released. The journey continues steadily. We all witnessed evolution of the Apple watch as well as Apple music becoming one of the largest music streaming platforms in the world. In 1976, in that garage, do you think Mr Jobs had a future figured out that included streaming music? Do you think the inventors had a future figured out for spending billions of dollars to create TV content?

Disruptive innovation is not an event. It is a point along a process that will lead to many others. We are not prophets, but speculators and adapters. Do not get into a box where you have every minute part of the future so figured out that you get locked out of that very future. Our ability to foresee outcomes is determined by what we see and know today, by the available technology and by beliefs, expectations and mindsets of people today. If any of these factors change as they are wont to, then those who are too rigidly invested in the present will miss out on the future.

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