While many of us remember 2010 like it was yesterday, it wasn’t yesterday. Things have changed, a lot. And we’re again on the verge of a fresh decade—the 2020s.
In leadership, it’s critical to know what’s changing and why it’s changing so you can keep leading well. Leaders who fail to notice the subtle or even significant shifts as they happen end up becoming irrelevant. Irrelevance matters in leadership only because relevance gives you permission to speak into the culture.
The culture has a habit of ignoring people it deems irrelevant (if you think about it, so do you). Relevance doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with what you see around you, but it does mean understanding it.
So with that in mind, here are ten things that have changed a lot in the last decade, and then shifts you can make to help you lead well into it.
After all, it’s difficult to impact a world you don’t understand.It's difficult to impact a world you don't understand. Click To Tweet
1. We Seem to Be A Lot Angrier and More Polarized
We seem a lot angrier than we used to be. Not to mention polarized.
Back in 2010, Twitter wasn’t the rant-machine it’s become today. Nope, it was still something you posted your food pictures on and used to connect with friends and share ideas.
But as culture and politics have become more tribal, polarized and factional, many people have noticed that anger seems to get you noticed. So does positioning yourself against your (horrible) opponents. And what has all this noticing got us? More alienated.
Anger, we’re learning, can get you heard, even if you have nothing to say. Sadly, we’ve also discovered that hate generates more clicks than love.
I outlined five reasons that anger is the new epidemic here.Anger can get you heard, even if you have nothing to say. Sadly, we've also discovered that hate generates more clicks than love. Click To Tweet
So what can you do about it? Here’s a radical suggestion: become a healthier leader.
We’re already seeing a big move away from toxic bosses, abusive workplaces and lower tolerance for aberrant behavior. As divided and divisive as many public leaders are now, that allows huge room in the middle for leaders with solid character and reasonable, rational views that actually still resonate with most people.
Our unhealthy culture is hungry for healthy leaders. Be one of them. Lead with dignity, integrity, trust, and humility. You might be surprised at the response you get over time.Our unhealthy culture is hungry for healthy leaders. Be one of them. Lead with dignity, integrity, trust, and humility. You might be surprised at the response you get over time. Click To Tweet
2. Content is Everywhere. Meaning Isn’t.
In 2010, we weren’t all celebrities yet.
Instagram didn’t launch until October of that year. Twitter hadn’t become the polarizing rant machine it is today. Facebook was still catching on, having amassed only 500 million users. YouTube was a few years old and SnapChat and TikTok weren’t around.
Fast forward to today, and it seems like everyone’s a content creators and/or brand clamoring for attention.
There are so many opportunities here for leaders this probably deserves its own post.
But let’s offer two:
First, the crisis we’re facing today isn’t a crisis of information, it’s a crisis of meaning. The future belongs to leaders who don’t simply offer content (or themselves), but who can broker meaning.The crisis we're facing today isn't a crisis of information, it's a crisis of meaning. The future belongs to leaders who don't simply offer content (or themselves), but who can broker meaning. Click To Tweet
Along with that will come another super-power for leaders: curation. You don’t have time to shift through millions of hours of video or browse endless articles. Years ago, you started drowning in content.
No, what most of us are looking for is the content that matters most to us. And Google or a quick search doesn’t always produce that.
So here’s the second shift: in a world drowning in content, content curation will become a skillset equally valuable to content creation. Leaders who can reliably point people to the best content and ideas will likely have as much influence as the leaders who create the best content.In a world drowning in content, content curation will become a skillset equally valuable to content creation. Click To Tweet
3. Long-Form Content Emerged As a Significant Force
So you know that line about humans having the attention span of a goldfish, or that the shorter a message is, the better?
So apparently it’s not true. Or at least not universally true.
Raw, unedited, long-form podcasting has risen over the last few years to become a dominant form of content consumption among younger (especially younger male) adults living in the West.
I agree with those who say our assumptions about communication formed during the broadcast era of the last half-century (banal cable TV, mainstream radio) are wrong.
Attention spans can be long. People have an appetite for nuanced, complex thought and honest dialogue.
Podcasts that range from 1 to 3+ hours are now mainstream media.
What’s most true about attention span moving forward is this: 5 minutes of boring is 5 minutes too long. 60 minutes of fascinating is not nearly enough.5 minutes of boring is 5 minutes too long. 60 minutes of fascinating is not nearly enough. Click To Tweet
4. Video Didn’t Kill Audio. Instead, Audio Exploded.
As short as a decade ago, most of us were still driving to the store to rent DVDs and watching cable TV. During the 2010s, video content creation and consumption accelerated at exponential rates thanks to faster internet speeds, YouTube and progressively more powerful phones and devices.
But surprisingly, video didn’t kill audio. Audio also exploded.
Two popular expressions of the profusion of audio are podcasts and audiobooks.
Let’s start with audiobooks.
A decade ago, the conversation was whether digital books would kill physical books. Not only did that not happen, but audio-books emerged as a growing phenomenon. My latest book is typical of the book market these days. 66% of all sales to date have been hardcover. Audiobook sales come in next (at 18%—higher than rapidly escalating industry standard of 10%). Kindle comes in third.
Expect audiobooks to continue to grow as listening grows in popularity throughout the 2020s.
On that note, podcasting has seen an even bigger boom. Although podcasting had been around for years, the 2010s saw it move from a curious niche market to a powerful force you can no longer ignore.
There are now estimated to be 750,000 podcasts in existence. While the average podcast gets something like 141 downloads in the first 30 days (see Point 2, above—lots of information, not quite as much meaning), the real promise of podcasting is being able to gain traction for your ideas or content with limited investment.
My leadership podcast (subscribe for free on Apple and Spotify) just passed 10 million downloads. A generation ago, to bring you half a dozen interviews with world class leaders each month would have required a big staff and millions of dollars (or at least hundreds of thousands of dollars) in infrastructure and air time costs.
I started my podcast five years ago for a total investment of less than $1000. While I now have a team and small infrastructure and increasingly fly to interviews to do them live, I essentially still run the show out of my house (literally my basement).
The point: podcasting has created a much lower barrier to entry for content creators. And according to most reports, these are still early days for podcasting. We’re nowhere near past-peak.
One of the reasons I think audio content continues to increase so rapidly is because listening allows you multitask in a way reading or watching doesn’t. You can commute, workout, cook, do yard work, go for a walk or go for a bike ride and listen to an audiobook or podcast. Which is exactly why so many people do.
The opportunity: podcasting and audio listening is still exploding. If you have a message worth sharing and you haven’t tried podcasting yet, don’t wait much longer. A decent microphone (here’s the $69 mic I use for remote interviews) and Garage Band on your laptop can get you started.Surprise! Video didn't kill audio. Audio exploded instead. Click To Tweet
5. You No Longer Go to Work. Work Goes To You.
For those of us who do office work, the decade could hardly have been more radical…with huge implications for emotional and mental health, as well as for endless opportunity.
You used to go to the office. That’s how almost all work happened.
Around 2012, all of that changed.
First, high-speed internet combined with widespread access to wifi became normal.
Second, by 2012 cell phone companies made LTE and 4G networks standard. So wherever you went you had access to data quite reliably.
Third, cloud-based computing emerged out of its experimental stage and became robust, secure and normal. Everything from VPNs to Google Docs to Microsoft Office became cloud-based, not desktop based.
Finally, mobile-first computing emerged as the new standard. What you used to need a desktop for you could now access on your phone, tablet or laptop effortlessly.
As a result, if you’re a knowledge worker, there’s a very good chance you’re holding almost everything you need to do your job in your hand.
Which means that thanks to technology, you no longer go to work, work goes to you.
As a leader, the ability to create a world-class team just got easier because location is no longer an issue. You can have a virtual workforce that includes in-person and remote team members.
It also means a lot of us live a grey-zone: because work follows you everywhere, you’re never really on and never really off.
In the next decade, you’ll see both workers and employers get much better at enforcing stricter personal/work boundaries so we don’t all lose our minds. Employers who lead the way on this will gain a distinct advantage.
If you want more on how to navigate this shift, I have a lot more gaining a competitive advantage in the changing workplace here.Thanks to technology, you no longer go to work, work goes to you. Click To Tweet
6. Anxious is the New Normal
Almost everyone’s stressed and anxious these days, and the younger you are the more true that seems to be.
While the causes behind the spike in anxiety, depression and stress are debatable, more and more fingers are pointing at technology and the constant communication we’re taking in these days online and via social media.
Your senses are on overload.
In previous generations, any sense of shock, outrage or concern you felt wasn’t triggered often, and when it was, it was because something truly shocking, outrageous or concerning happened.
Fast-forward to today, and every day, you encounter a thousand triggers for sadness, outrage, anger, empathy, hurt, and frustration that your ancestors never did in the palm of your hand.
Today, as your feed follows you everywhere telling you about everything you don’t need to know and can’t really process, your senses get tripped into overload.
Your brain gets hijacked, and as Tristan Harris points out, tech companies are intentionally triggering the anger and outrage cycles in our brains to get us to consume more. That sounds outrageous but read a little more deeply and widely on it…it’s at least worth considering that this may be happening.
Call it compassion fatigue, indifference or whatever you want to call it, as a human being, you weren’t designed to process all the information your phone and the media have you processing. Anxiety is spiking as a result.As a human being, you weren’t designed to process all the information your phone and the media have you processing. Anxiety is spiking as a result. Click To Tweet
The opportunity here is for leaders who figure out how to stay calm, not get overwhelmed, filter and process information appropriately, and help their teams do the same.
Non-anxious leaders can help cultivate non-anxious teams.Non-anxious leaders can help cultivate non-anxious teams. Click To Tweet
7. People Stay Home A Lot More
In the same way that you used to go to work, you used to have to go to everything.
Increasingly, everything now comes to you. You could argue that the rise of Amazon is not just because of what it sells, but because of how it delivers.In the same way that you used to go to work, you used to have to go to everything. Increasingly, everything now comes to you. Click To Tweet
UberEats and other food delivery services bring you dinner. So does almost everything else you can imagine. You never have to leave your home.
So many people don’t. Or at least not as much.
We’ve seen attendance at church, pro-sports games, conferences and live events struggle more than usual.
What being at home is doing to both the environment and our souls is up for debate, but the trend is clear.
If you’re waiting for people to line up for you in the future, you could be waiting for a long time.If you're waiting for people to line up for you in the future, you could be waiting for a long time. Click To Tweet
8. Tech has Become Your Best Friend and Worst Enemy
In 2010, most of us still had a fascination with tech that bordered on a love affair. Tech was seen as an unstoppable force that created good in the world.
Now, I’m not so sure.
In some ways tech is your best friend. You can do more today and stay more connected than anyone imaged three decades ago.
But because tech so ubiquitous—in everything from speakers in your bedroom to your car to your fridge to an endless stream of devices that have you constantly connect, it’s also your biggest threat.
Constant distraction is the enemy of intimacy and the cause of deep exhaustion. It’s the enemy of deep work and clear, uninterrupted thinking.
I share more on why I’m changing my mind about technology in this post.
In the next decade, if we’re to stay sane, the ethics of tech (everything from privacy to how we use our devices and the limits we place on ourselves) need to advance more quickly than tech itself.
We’re quickly approaching the point as a culture where we don’t own our devices; our devices own us. And when technology runs you, it can ruin you.We're quickly approaching the point as a culture where we don't own our devices; our devices own us. And when technology runs you, it can ruin you. Click To Tweet
9. Millennials Are No Longer Kids
A curious little point here, but one (I think) worth making.
In 2010, the oldest Millennial was 29. And for the most part, Millennial became synonymous ‘young person’ or even ‘kid.”
In 2020, the oldest Millennials will turn 39 and the youngest will turn 24. They’re hardly kids. You might even argue the oldest Millennials are entering mid-life.
If that’s true, why do so many Gen X and Boomer leaders still refer to Millennials as kids or ‘young people’?
While certain generational characteristics continue to travel with every generation through every decade (Gen Xers still feel ignored and a bit cynical, and Boomers are still a bit self-focused), some of the characteristics of Millennials will morph with age and stage. Having a mortgage and family and being 15 years into your working life does present different issues than being 25 and living at home with ample disposable income.
As Millennials age, the focus in leadership will increasingly be on what Gen Z will be like as they emerge from college and enter the workforce.
While Millennials have been founders and CEOs in tech companies and startups now for over a decade, in the next ten years more and more senior leaders in all kinds of organizations will be Millennials.In the next ten years more and more senior leaders in all kinds of organizations will be Millennials. Click To Tweet
10. The Unique Experiences We Keep Seeking Feel Less and Less Unique
One of the big trends of the last decade is to move from accumulating things to acquiring experiences. Younger adults are skipping bigger houses and nicer cars for trendy dining, travel, and adventures that make them unique.
With the increasingly rapid emergence of post-Christian culture in America, people of all ages are looking to fill their souls with something.
And so we strive for unique experiences, personal challenges and adventures that make us stand out.
Instagram makes all of this easier and harder than ever.
One of the things we’re discovering about ourselves is the more unique we try to be, the more we realize how many out there are just like us and how soul-numbing that feels.
All of which has led us as a culture to moments like we saw in May 2019, where the traffic jam to reach the summit on Mount Everest not only turned deadly (as almost a dozen climbers died), but shocking as literally hundreds of climbers were stalled out trying to reach the summit as the picture above, shows (photo: Nirmal Purja)
If you want to hike Mt. Everest, get in line.
What’s the point? Well, for starters, clearly we’re all searching for something to make us feel significant.
What’s the opportunity? Deep, robust theology that talks to the soul crisis that’s emerging in our culture and how to address it.
I think John Mark Comer and Mark Sayers are doing a very decent job at it. If you only have 24 minutes to listen to a podcast this week and want to understand what’ I’m driving at here more deeply, make it this one.One of the things we're discovering about ourselves is the more unique we try to be, the more we realize how many out there are just like us and how soul-numbing that is. Click To Tweet
To A Better 2020 (And Decade)
There’s no doubt more and more things are vying for you attention. How do you keep first things first?
Like your sanity? Your family? Your priorities?
How do you stop life and work from hijacking your dreams?
If you’re trying to find the time for what matters most in life, my High Impact Leader course, is my online, on-demand course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour.
Many leaders who have taken it are recovering 3 productive hours a day. That’s about 1000 hours of found time each year. That’s a lot of time for what matters most.
Here are what some alumni are saying about The High Impact Leader Course”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for providing the course again. It has absolutely made an impact in my life and family already that I can’t even describe.” – Joel Rowland, Clayton County, North Carolina
“Just wow. Thank you, thank you.” Dave Campbell, Sioux Falls South Dakota
“A game changer.” Pam Perkins, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Curious? Want to beat overwhelm and have the time to reflect, rest and reinvent yourself?
Click here to learn more or get instant access.
What Do You See?
It’s hard to encapsulate a decade in a 2000 word post, and this list is partial at best.
What have you seen?
What’s changing us deeply and what’s changed deeply over the last decade?
Scroll down and leave a comment!