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Countering pressures on leaders: NextGen Expectations & the Climate Emergency

by Rebecca Geach

Time is running out

Written by Thinking the Unthinkable Founder and Co-Director, Nik Gowing

Most boardrooms and C-Suites still fail to understand the new customer power of the NextGen, especially their disillusionment over what they see as corporate and political foot-dragging on tackling the Climate Emergency.

Time is running out. So at ‘Thinking the Unthinkable’ (TtU) we are scaling up work. Our aim is to embolden leaders on how to embrace the new realities. For starters, see What we do and Client work on this website.

Remarkably, too many leaders still hope that somehow they don’t have to act, or they can delay and prevaricate. Yet they should be thinking how they can thrive on this challenge. In short order they can innovate and change their approach to business to benefit everyone.

To do that they must accept, not resist. They need to listen and understand the fast growing push back against orthodox and reactionary attitudes, especially by the NextGen.

The NextGen may be young and still have much of life to experience and learn from. Yet their intuition and grip on the new realities is remarkable. As a result their voices are more powerful than most leaders seem willing to accept.

On climate, those realities are becoming as sinister as scientists have warned. The NextGen get this. But even their increasingly loud, mass expressions of anxiety about the planet which they will inherit are not taken seriously enough.

Far too many leaders send too few signals that they understand the urgency of the emergency. Thinking is short term. Politicians worry that they will lose votes. Corporates fear they will not produce the financial returns that investors expect.

What is coming is not unthinkable. It is unpalatable. The looming reality is clear. That is what the NextGen understands. Leaders must do that too.

In our five years of Thinking the Unthinkable work we have interviewed hundreds of leaders. Many confirmed that they are stressed, overwhelmed and scared by the new scale of disruption. The pressures from the NextGen and the climate emergency are further sharpening these negatives

For most leaders, the struggle is to counter the conformity which got them their jobs. Why so? The main finding of our TtU project is that the conformity which qualifies leaders for the top now disqualifies many of them from understanding, gripping and then embracing the implications of the new scale of disruption. The pressure from the NextGen and Climate Emergency is worsening this reality.

Leaders now need to be both reassured and inspired. That is the aim of TtU. The best reassurance often comes from something very human and even personal. Leaders tell us they like hearing the stories and experiences of other leaders. How did they succeed? What was the cost of trying new ideas? What are the rewards from taking risks and experimenting?

TtU now has a commitment to embolden those leaders to transform themselves and those they work with. There is no shame or negative to taking that risk. It is the opposite. The biggest professional, career and reputational risk comes from retaining the conformist skills which got them there.

The challenge is to grip with determination the new pressures from the NextGen and the climate emergency. Our work at Thinking the Unthinkable can help you do that.

Explore the links below for what we’ve said about the NextGen and the Climate Emergency:

Teens ‘think the unpalatable’ about their future

Young climate protesters urge leaders to be brave

‘Wacky mavericks’ young leaders of the future

How can leaders stop their brightest and best staff jumping ship?

How to engage your staff: Lessons from OCP in Morocco

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