Campaign Special: Future Favours the Brave

After a particularly torrid flight to Amsterdam in 2013, when the oxygen masks made an unnerving appearance from above as we attempted to land for a third time, my son Ned (then aged 17) turned to me and eagerly declared he wanted to become an airline pilot.

Some months later, as we moved through the milk rounds of airline recruiters persuading Ned to sign up to £100,000 investment to train with them, it was a hot competition.

The pitches were slick. BA discussed its impeccable safety record, BMI promoted its work-life balance culture, Cathay Pacific offered super long haul adventures and Qantas showed pride in the newness of its fleet. Yet it was Alitalia who provided the unsuspecting game changer: it simply talked about…the weather.

Alitalia explained that, given where it sits on the equator and its distinctive seasons, its pilots often experience the greatest weather extremes within the two hours between take-off and landing, offering both surprise and challenge. Becoming a pilot who can fly with bravery and agility was the promise; someone able to meet more unpredictable and unforeseen conditions than anyone flying for another airline – making Alitalia’s pilots the most agile and, by inference, the best.

As leaders and pilots looking out of the cockpit window onto 2019, I believe the philosophy of Alitalia might never be more pertinent.

Rather than relying on old credentials and formulas, hygiene and antiquated performance reports, we must instead accept that we are venturing into unknown and unpredictable territories and facing a necessary and impending cyclone of change. This will require skilled, brave and resilient leadership.

Our clients’ focus is on brand safety, trust, fraud, data breaches and GDPR, while the death of the high street is being led by consumers increasingly comfortable with the convenience of online offers. Is it any wonder that the marketing and communications industry has become keenly aware of an apocalyptic change on the horizon?

If you feel 2018 was tough, there is a universal sense that 2019 is looking likely to start a 36-month period of transformation which may see every corner of our sector undergo fundamental change.

There is a US recession predicted for late 2019 and our very own Brexit drama offers little comfort and no known flight path. Add to that the slowing of the Chinese economy and the rise of its public and private-sector debt and, globally, we are all somewhat at sea.

This imminent storm will elicit differing reactions depending on the type of leader at the helm.

Some will wish to seek shelter and protect the legacy of past achievements hard fought, while others will face the squall with alacrity. For it is those who are willing to bravely embrace the unknown and harness the power of the storm who will now be rewarded.

At the Lighthouse, we spend our waking hours seeking and representing the finest leadership talent and underpinning that work with our annual, published Shipping Forecast research.

In 2017, the study looked at the leadership traits most required in transformational times and in 2018, we exposed the emerging categories of leadership, ultimately identifying The Exotic, The Extinct and The Evolved (the “elite forces”).

The insights of the past two years show we will require truly evolved leaders in 2019 who are willing to embrace principles that require bravery and a pioneering spirit. The three guiding principles are these:

1. Evolve and adapt your critical vision 

2. Break networks; seek collaboration with new partners and old competitors

3. Bring a personal vulnerability to the future

The world climate is evolving, the weather is on the turn and we need evolved leaders to steer us to new and dynamic shores.

As pilots, captains and leaders in this transforming sector we have a duty of care to the clients we serve, to those we lead and to ourselves. We are all precious cargo. So get ready –  take a firm grip on the controls and be ready for a turbulent but adventurous ride.