Lobsters have hard shells that don’t stretch or expand, so in order to grow they have to shed their shells. The new shell is quite soft and, until it hardens, the lobster is vulnerable. Change is like that. We can resist change and not grow, or we can experience some vulnerability and growth. From a personal standpoint, the choice is ours.

However, as an industry, sometimes the choice isn’t ours. Our industry is driven more and more by a wide variety of stakeholders, the ultimate stakeholder being the global environment and everyone who is impacted by it, which just happens to be everyone. So, if we don’t change our world, the world will change it for us.

This is a leadership conundrum in many ways. Our business platforms and most of the generation in leadership roles today have been conditioned to strive for stability and predictability in a traditionally unstable, unpredictable industry in a time of rapid change. Rapid change in technology, in institutions and in our environment. Although not intentionally, I think novelist James Anderson described our industry when he wrote, “Most people who say they want change only want enough change to keep everything the same, only better.”

Young people are uniquely qualified to be leaders in our current environment and they don’t even know it. Our youth have lived only in a world of rapid change. They have been constantly adapting to and thriving on change.  In my opinion, their lack of experience may be an asset at this time.

However, one thing we know from experience is that leadership without experience is dangerous. Repeating the mistakes of the past is something we cannot afford to do. For those of you who are in positions of leadership, you must determine how to pass on your learnings to enable younger leaders to thrive in these changing times. I think New Gold’s Ian Pearce got it right when he explained it in a way that engineers can understand: “A leader needs to recognize the ‘potential energy’ in an individual and convert that into ‘kinetic energy.’” 

For young people in our industry, in school you learned how to learn. Your great ideas and your passion now must be coupled with ongoing learning, which can be through experience, but you should also garner as much knowledge as you can from those that have gone before you. Are you building a support network? Do you have mentors? Are you expanding your knowledge base beyond work? Are you taking notes, both literally and figuratively?

For our present-day leaders, how are you passing on your experiences? Are you putting them to paper to share with others? Are you training your people? Not just approving training but giving it. How many young people are you mentoring today?  If not, why not? Too busy? Our number one job as leaders is to create new leaders. We need to get our priorities straight.