How Can Senior Leaders Be Effective in Times of Constant and Dramatic Change?

At the beginning of January, I spoke with author Joanne Irving about her latest book entitled The C² Factor for Leadership: How the Alchemy of Curiosity and Courage Helps Leaders Become Champions and Lead Meaningful Lives. This book answers the questions: How do we effectively lead in times of constant, often dramatic change? And, equally important, how do we simultaneously create a satisfying, meaningful life? In addition, it reveals that when leaders manifest both traits, they embrace the professional and personal opportunities the future brings. When the landscape is shifting beneath our feet the C² Factor enables us to lead more effectively and helps us cultivate more fulfilling personal lives.

During our conversation, I asked Joanne: "How can senior leaders be effective in times of constant, often dramatic change?" Here is her complete answer:

How can we prepare for the future when COVID and all the changes it provoked remind us of just how surprised we are when it arrives?

Cognitive skills such as business competence, creating a vision, and strategic thinking; and emotional intelligence such as communicating, inspiring, and developing others are necessary but insufficient for leadership today. Beyond specific skills, beyond IQ and EQ, leaders today need personality characteristics that enable them to respond to changes regardless of what conditions emerge. To embrace and exploit the future, leaders need to develop and exercise the C² Factor -- the application of profound curiosity and relentless courage

While both curiosity and courage are often mentioned on lists of desired leadership qualities, the alchemy of the two -- the C² Factor -- is where the magic is. 

Curiosity and courage are symbiotic and when applied synergistically, produce exceptional leadership. To be curious often requires courage – the courage to examine one’s assumptions, beliefs, and attitudes, the courage to be curious about what options have not been considered, whose opinion has been left out, why the organization is structured the way it is…

And it helps us be courageous when we adopt a curious mindset. When faced with a challenge, instead of reacting with defensiveness we can explore the validity of that challenge, be interested in what opportunities it could bring, and what innovation it might inspire. Courage is what enables us to take action in the face of ambiguity.

Leaders who want their organizations to nimbly navigate the lightning-speed change of today and be prepared for an assuredly uncertain future must model the C² Factor and embed it in their organization’s culture. This means:

Hiring from groups with diverse backgrounds

Enabling innovation by encouraging challenges to the status quo

Providing time and resources for exploration outside of one’s immediate area of expertise

Rewarding judicious risk-taking, even when those experiments fail

Today’s world is different from what tomorrow will bring so business as usual does not work. Leaders must ask questions and make decisions that challenge or even defy conventional wisdom.  They must take action to respond to conditions they have never anticipated. They must exercise their C² Factor.

What do you think about Joanne's ideas? Do you believe that this synergistic application of curiosity and courage results in more effective leadership?