On Becoming A New Normal Leader


It’s a common, well-accepted, well-worn and overused term: the New Normal.

It’s also stealthily deceptive and destructive. It’s critical that successful leaders understand that linear thinking is just an exit ramp in a world of exponential change.

Many of today’s leaders, especially association board of directors and CEOs, think that the new normal will eventually stabilize. In reality, accelerating change is constant and ongoing. It’s not a finite phase or a period of time that will stop. Using linear thinking—assuming that you can continue to succeed in the 21st Century from incremental gains from your current models and processes—will result in your demise. (Hat tips Tod Martin and Radar.)

Evolving How You Lead

The evolutionary nature and hockey stick curve of exponential change has a huge impact on leadership. Why? Because it requires evolving your beliefs on how to lead. You can’t lead like you did in the past. If you do, it will have drastic negative affect to your decisions and your organization.

“What’s dangerous is not to evolve,” Jeff Bezos, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Amazon.

Leaders—it is of vital importance that you fully understand and respond accordingly to the fact that linear thinking will not work in the 21st Century. The new normal is the natural acceleration of exponential change. It is the rapid and constant transformation of business and society.

As leaders, you are biased towards consistent, persistent, the-way-it’s-always-been-a-plus-b-linear-thinking.

As a leader you must learn to adapt to this new condition. This new normal is a time when practices of the past, common conventional wisdom and accepted truths shift daily. Your success depends upon open, honest, transparent dialogue and deliberation—not debate which creates a winner and loser and shuts down the executive functions of your brain’s thinking capabilities—across functions, fields and professions.

Becoming A True Curator

So how do you help your team, your organization and your profession adapt to this new normal? How do you avoid linear thinking? How do you look up from the way-it’s-always-been-done work and look forward to the future?

One way is to adapt the core skills of a curator to your job. You must practice and perfect the foundational skills of curiosity, communication, collaboration and co-creation.

Looking up from the past means stop assuming that tomorrow will be exactly like yesterday or today. Avoid the deceptive thought that your next conference can be planned the exact way you planned the past one. Sidestep the trap that your customers—your target market—will always attend your programs, buy your services and shout your merits from the roof tops.

Instead, become a guide that can provide a new frame, a fresh point of view, a perspective that helps others understand the contemporary horizon. You provide the structure and focus that will contextualize the process for your team and your customers’ work.

With this in mind, you act as a curator of experiences in addition to curating content. You blend experiences with the right recipe so that your customers embrace learning, unlearning and relearning. You don’t see learning as a one-stop-event. You see it within an ongoing cycle of events. You also curate your services so that they naturally integrate and connect throughout the year. And they integrate within the world of exponential change and your customers’ learning journey.

The future is all around you. As a new normal leader, your job is to uncover what parts matter most to your organization and your customers.

What are the opportunities for your organization of embracing a new normal leadership role? How has the traditional role of an art museum curator evolved into the leader-as-curator in the new normal?

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