Leadership is changing and emerging leaders are quickly becoming the fastest catalyst for culture change. We can all take advantage of the catalyst that is the emerging leader to accelerate a much needed change. Could this be the way to solve some of our organisations and society's biggest challenges like diversity, inclusion, bullying, harassment and even climate change?
Why do we need culture change?
Poor culture is why we are facing big problems as organisations and as society. Issues like bullying, gender inequity, sexual harassment and ethical decision making all stem from one overarching problem - a problem with culture. Who has the most influence on culture? Leaders.
The most exciting thing about leadership today is you don’t need the title to be one. It’s all about taking the actions, having the attitude and behaving like a leader. This is the kind of leader that can transform a team, nudge the cultural course of a company in a different direction and garner momentum in society to create a movement.
Today’s leaders who are the catalyst for cultural change aren’t the ones with titles in traditional positions of power and we can all take advantage of that.
The standards we accept
Emerging leaders are not accepting our current standards of workplaces and no longer accepting that status quo. They are going beyond the point of no return in their careers, putting their future career prospects on the line to make a change they want to see.
Emerging leaders who are passionate about seeing change are taking massive action, having their voice heard and stepping out to stand up for what they believe in. Sometimes they are doing it no matter what the cost to them personally. Now they are gaining visibility and a following by being bold because they are no longer willing to sit on the side lines.
'The standard you walk past is the standard you accept' was a common phrase on one of my first engineering jobs as a site engineer on a construction site and rightly so, they can be dangerous places. But it wasn’t always like this. A change in safety culture has literally saved lives.
We have seen the positive impact that a cultural change in our attitude towards safety can have in our workplaces, what if we could create that same change with the other cultural challenges in our workplace. This is what emerging leaders are challenging us to do - to no longer step over and walk past the casual sexism, the impact we are having on our environment or harassment.
Leading without permission
Today, a 16 year old named Greta Thunberg can take a day off school and start a global movement. Instead of a career politician making a change to climate policy a teenager can be profiled by the BBC and garner the attention of the European Parliament and influence the Chancellor of Germany to take action.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a young hispanic female, who became the second most talked about politician after Donald Trump. AOC in her first term managed to get rid of Amazon in Queens with the power of a few sentences delivered on Twitter and got campaign-finance to go viral.
A new wave of equality can begin from one person speaking up like Brittany Higgins courageously stepping out to share her story which sparked the March 4 Justice campaign around the nation.
There is a common thread to each of these stories. Each one stood up for something they believed in, put themselves on the line no matter the consequences and kept going until they were heard. They didn’t wait until they had power, influence, permission or were paid to do it - they went out and fought for it and became the catalyst for a movement.
From catalyst to movement and cultural change
Going from an idea to a movement takes action and persistence. What we can learn from movement research is that taking something from catalyst to movement is that it comes down to emotion.
This could be why we are seeing such traction with people like Greta, AOC, Brittany and Grace Tame. These emerging leaders are throwing everything at it, bringing out an emotional response. It is this response that is the catalyst and the spark for real culture change.
Is it time for you to be a catalyst?
Emerging leaders today are making bold moves, taking brave action and are leading the change they want to see themselves. They are not waiting around to be in traditional positions of power and influence or having traditional leadership titles. Instead, emerging leaders are demanding big change happens, taking a stand on the unworkability of our culture and becoming the catalyst of movements.