Simon Phillips writes about how leading change is critical to staying ahead of the curve.

Ahead of the Curve – Meaning?

Ahead of the Curve simply means staying current. Scanning the horizon for opportunities for consolidation, growth and development. And weaving them all into the strategy. If you and your business are ahead of the curve, the future seems less intimidating. You appear to be more in control than your competitors. You’re also perceived as Pioneers – bravely forging a path for others to follow.

A History of Pioneering

There have been pioneers in the commercial world since, forever! All solid businesses began life as a game-changing idea. From the motor car to the mobile phone and beyond. It’s the leaders and the organisations that change the game and constantly bring the horizon to life, that dominate. Microsoft, Apple and Amazon have pushed the boundaries for years. However, it’s the new kids on the block, such as Tesla, Shopify, Zoom and Atlassian have emerged strongly during the pandemic.

Looking even further ahead. It’s the organisations behind technology like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), green technology and social movements that are stealing a march on their competitors. Indeed, thought leadership is becoming a commodity. Consequently, if your organisation doesn’t have a perspective on the issues of the day affecting your clients, you are invisible.

What’s New?

I mentioned the pandemic and it has truly changed the business landscape for ever. At the height of the first wave and with countries locking down across the globe, we spent some time introducing people to the Unwanted Change Curve. Essentially, the argument was that many people don’t actually mind change per se. Instead, people struggle with change that they have not personally initiated or wanted.

Unwanted Change Curve

How we respond to change depends partly on whether we want it or not.

As this curve demonstrates, the challenge is wholly focused on Acceptance. Can we, and the people we influence and support, get to a point of accepting the change quickly? If we can, then improvement is possible. We can shift to a space of curiosity and excitement for the future.

Multiple Curves

Right now, there are multiple curves to navigate. As well as the environmental, digital and industry curves, there are shifts in the community and family dynamics too. The role of a leader has transformed. From one of inspiring performance to nurturing commitment and supporting multiple agendas.

There has been a shift in the balance of power between the employer and the employee. It’s subtle, and may not impact organisations immediately. But there are so many elements contributing to this “Shift”. It will play a significant role in the success, or otherwise, of organisations that get ahead of the curve in the next few years.

Recently, PWC surveyed 30,000+ workers across the world to share their hopes and fears on the future of work. Here are the four key findings from the Hopes and Fears 2021 study that indicate the core shift in the people dimension:

  • Workers want to reskill, especially in digital: 77% are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain.
  • Remote work is in demand: 72% of people who can work remotely prefer a flexible mix of in-person and remote working.
  • There’s a strong desire for greater inclusivity: 50% of workers say they’ve faced discrimination at work.  
  • People are concerned about job security: 60% are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk.

The Curve Surfer – leading change

Staying ahead of the curve in 2021 and beyond will necessitate an approach to leadership that is 100% about surfing the waves of Change. Leaders will need to be:

  • Resilient in the face of relentless change.
  • Capable of building an environment in which change can be used as a driver for agile improvement.
  • Open (and welcoming) to ideas that are not all about the traditional business focal point of shareholder profit.
  • Willing to be visible, accessible and engaged with the people challenges.

This last point in particular, is the key to opening up the opportunity to lead a workforce through the next year to 18 months effectively. Technology is making all of us more accessible. Understandably, in recent years, we have focused on the negative impact this has had, it is time now to focus on how we make the most of it. Personal outreach has never been simpler. Simply, engaging with specific parts of the organisation, motivating key individuals, listening to critical conversations, is all possible at the touch of a screen.

To mix my metaphors – it is time to:

  1. Break free of the operational straight-jacket.
  2. Delegate more to the line managers who crave responsibility.
  3. Do the job we’re paid for – leading people.

The Change Maker Group has been supporting leaders of changing organisations for a long time. The context for leading change has changed rapidly in the last few months. But the job of leading change has not. To arrange a complementary call with one of our Change Makers, click here.


Simon Phillips is the Founder of The Change Maker Group and the Change Makers Community. Simon shares his message globally.

If you’d like to engage him to share why the world needs more Change Makers, get in touch.