Exponential Leadership: A Challenge in Times of Uncertainty

Exponential leaders are disruptive because they observe the rules but challenge them with innovation and creativity. They focus on people’s problems, whether internal or external customers, and are willing to change their mindset substantially, proposing new models, new archetypes with intelligence and serenity, which make up a prototype to experience a change of ideas and transform or replace paradigms. This is in part the vision of the exponential leader, where the future is today and today is the future, according to Singularity University (Silicon Valley-California).

Leaders should be resilient to mistakes and failures, and identify flaws, reformulate strategies and look for solutions to problems time and again. Leaders do not refuse to budge in relation to their convictions when they see that the reality is giving evidence of their mistakes.

Exponential leaders are in touch with reality, observing, questioning and working with it to meet the critical demands imposed by beneficiaries’ aspirations, wishes and needs. That is why their priority is to protect life, security, health, environment, education, justice, productivity, efficiency, and everything that leads to a decent, sustainable lifestyle for everybody without distinction (consciousness).

Leaders reformulate their thinking structure (design thinking), listen to all and in particular to those who have critical needs, and look for solutions or start to carry out plans to come up with such solutions. Leaders should be inventive, smart, serene, patient, and also careful, preventive and perceptive. They should think outside the box, not subject to any intrinsic conditioning factors of a dilemma or the significant influence of the environment. They should push the envelope and seek new horizons, and explore unknown areas out of their traditional circle.

Empathy is an essential attribute, and allows leaders to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes, understanding how they think and in particular which are their needs, dissatisfaction and frustration, in addition to their feelings. Empathy can be cognitive, motivational and affective. It is not just a matter of comparison; it means experiencing in other people’s position to understand their needs, desires and expectations.

In a world of rising volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, leaders should focus on short-, medium- and long-term strategies, innovation and the impact of new technologies projecting themselves as designers (the long view).

Leaders should redesign their way of thinking constantly. The brain creates creativity as long as the different changes in behavior give emotional rewards (decision-making). Even faith needs motivation sometimes, and for its development it requires rewards that expand the comfort zone. But if necessary, the comfort zone should be abandoned and new uncomfortable areas should be explored.

Undoubtedly, exponential leaders should be -first of all- exponential thinkers, placing themselves ahead of the evolution curve, anticipating events, predicting effects that without a shadow of a doubt will be brought about by new technologies together with unpredictable events, pinpointing breaches, predicting back swans, and designing animated curves that allow to forecast cycles and countercyclical events.

The machine learning process means the use of Artificial Intelligence where systems go beyond algorithms and start to learn and think. The onset of this revolution is the main challenge for leaders, and a daily demand at organizations.

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment based on the Buddhist concept of meditation. It has become popular in the Western world thanks to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Even though its roots lie in Buddhism, mindfulness is taught completely devoid of any Eastern or religious element or terminology. Leaders should try to reach deeper levels of undivided attention and thinking than the regular ones.

Exponential leaders are the indispensable protagonists of a challenging world of exponential technologies, and should have extraordinary talent and strengths that may be nurtured, developed and put into practice. This is also a challenge for all of us at all levels when there is not the slightest doubt about the decadence and prevailing general crisis.

By Julian A. de Diego
Director of the postgraduate course on Human Resources at the School of Business at UCA.