As a leader you likely seize opportunities many others miss.
But in this particular moment in history, there are opportunities before us that few are seizing well.
I was originally going to write this post for church leaders (that’s my context), but I think it has wider application for all leaders.
Our culture is undergoing radical transformation.
One day when historians write about our moment in time, they’ll refer to the change happening around us as being on a similar scale to the Christianization of the Roman Empire under Constantine, the invention of the printing press, the Protestant Reformation or even the Industrial Revolution.
The change is that significant.
And in the midst of the change, there are 3 opportunities not nearly enough leaders are seizing.
Leaders who seize these opportunities will have a rare and elevated influence in the future that other leaders won’t, because they’ll address three crises in our culture in a way others won’t.
3 Crises Wise Leaders Will Address
So what are the crises smart leaders will address? Here are three I see in front of us:
1. A crisis of meaning, not information
Information used to be rare.
As recently as a few decades ago, information was difficult to find and usually had to be purchased. You had to buy a book, purchase access to a talk (or the talk itself), or pay for access to an expert who would share information with you for a price.
Getting published was difficult and expensive. And access to publishing content of any kind (books, music, video, audio, let alone your thoughts and opinions) was controlled by industry experts who decided who got air time and who didn’t.
The last decade has fundamentally changed that in two ways:
1. You can find almost any information or content you want for free. When was the last time you googled something you couldn’t find an answer to without paying? Exactly.
2. Everbody’s a publisher. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram and other platforms have turned anyone and everyone into content producers, and self-publishing has turned every half serious writer into an author.
As a result, the crisis in our culture no longer centres on access to information. We have more information than we know how to process.
The crisis in our culture isn’t a crisis of information, it’s a crisis of meaning.
You’ve felt this every time you’ve scrolled through your social media feed and thought “there is nothing of value here at all”.
In fact, on some days, the constant rants, drivel, trivial observations, bragging, self-promotion and complaining has made you think about giving up social media all together.
The challenge for leaders moving forward is not to produce more content. The challenge is to provide meaning.
I believe the future belongs to leaders who broker meaning in the sea of endless content.
It follows, then, that the key to providing meaning isn’t more, it’s better. More content will simply get lost the constant chatter.
More without meaning will make you less relevant. You become yet another unhelpful voice.
Better is not nearly as easy as more. Better requires thought, reflection, digestion and ultimately resonance (it’s resonance that tells you your content is connecting).
This provides a huge opportunity for church leaders. Who better to provide meaning than the leaders called to share timeless truth in an era starved for meaning?
And for business leaders the opportunity to stand out with your customers, your peers and your clients is right in front of you.
Just know that the race to produce more will compete with the need to produce meaning.
Leaders who read widely, digest, think, and above all publish content that actually helps people find meaning will become THE leaders in their field.
2. A crisis of connection, not followers
It’s not that difficult to gain followers, fans or even make ‘friends’ these days.
We subscribe, like and follow dozens, hundreds and even thousands of causes, businesses and people.
As a leader, it’s one thing to be followed.
It is quite another to connect with the people who follow you.
Followers are fickle. They can go as easily as they come. They can unlike as impulsively as they liked.
Whether you’re leading something virtual or something that requires physical presence (I lead in both contexts), it’s easy to focus on gaining followers without realizing they’re losing connection.
Connection will win the future.
There are a lot of lonely people on social media who have 1000 followers and no one to actually connect with.
There are more than a few people who attend whatever gathering you’re hosting who feel completely disconnected from anything and anyone in the room.
We are more networked than ever before, yet we’re more isolated than ever before.
Having a million followers does not produce a million connections.
Ironically, if your goal is to simply gain followers you will eventually lose followers. And even if your followers stay with you as a statistic, you will not have their hearts. Which means you won’t have them.
Our church, for example, is home to over 2000 people. We just moved into a new facility and are experiencing another growth spurt. While it’s exciting to grow, it’s even more critical to connect.
So as we grow larger, we are hyper focusing on personally connecting as many people as possible. Our groups and personal connection points at our church have never been more important.
We’ve also talked to all our communicators in different environments to help us all focus on the more personal, human, and even imperfect sides of our personalities.
As you get bigger and have access to more resources, it’s critical to stay grounded, humble, personal and approachable.
People simply want to connect with people and with God.
Leaders who provide connection will own the future.
3. A crisis of direction, not options
A third crisis before us is a crisis of direction, not options.
As this New York Times piece points out, we have more options than we have ever had in human history. And it’s paralyzing us.
When people have the option to do ten things, they often choose to do nothing.
In the same way that information can be overwhelming, too much choice can be disorienting. The very thing that promises freedom (choice) actually brings bondage.
Smart leaders will stop providing options and instead provide direction.
Leaders who provide direction will still offer choice, but choice among a narrower range of options that leads somewhere meaningful and ultimately beneficial.
Again, you are helping broker meaning in an age of information and choices.
Providing direction can be difficult in leadership. In an age where people are programmed to demand options and endless choices, it takes courage to decide you won’t offer a sea of options just to make people happy.
Leaders who get over their natural desire to be liked will (as I wrote about here), ironically, end up being being far more admired than those who give into the pressure to please.
Deciding ahead of time on a few options that provide the best outcomes for the people you’re leading will result in more traction, not less.
But it also means you have to do the hard work of
1. Determining ahead of time where to lead people.
2. Making mid-course adjustments when your way turns out not to be the best way.
3. Having the humility to admit when you’re wrong.
4. Being willing to withstand the constant criticism you will get for not offering more.
But if you can withstand all of this, you will be far more effective.
Naturally, you need to lead people in a direction that ultimately helps them most…this is not about you moving people through hoops to get to a place that pleases you but helps few.
But if you really lead people to a place that helps them, they’ll be incredibly grateful. And they’ll tell their friends.
Our culture craves direction. Few leaders currently have the courage to offer it.
What Do You See?
These are three cultural crises I see emerging in our generation.
What do you see?
How would you address it?
Scroll down and leave a comment!