Nobody Has a GPS for the Future

The disruption has only just started, warns Dr. Riza Kadilar, President, European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Yet, he is optimistic about the future. “We create problems, and then we solve them. It is what humanity has always done.”

These days, Dr Riza Kadilar divides his time between Istanbul, Amsterdam and Paris. Not a bad life, he admits. First and foremost, Kadilar is a banker, acting as senior country manager of French investment bank in Turkey. But his interests are not limited to the financial sector. He authored books on China, carbon markets, mentoring, and coaching. He is also a visiting professor at leading Turkish universities, sits on the board of two education charities, and is chairman of the China Institute Turkey and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.

His wide-ranging experience, spanning cultures, countries and economic sectors, puts him in a unique position to review the changing economic landscape and the demands it puts on today’s business leaders.

How can companies adapt to the changing business environment?

“First of all, the corporate structures that came into existence during the industrial revolution, are not fit for today’s world. The kind of highly skilled and creative people who create value in companies today, don’t get motivated by a carrot and a stick. As Daniel Pink explains in his book Drive, autonomy is key. Talented people want to be autonomous in the way that they plan and execute their tasks. They also want a job that is meaningful. This is nothing new, by the way. Studies of corporate wellbeing have been consistently showing this since the 1960s and 70s. It just took a global financial crisis to bring this trend to the forefront.”

What the alternative to the carrot and the stick?

“It is more complicated than your question suggests. When I started my career, I could instruct the people working for me to do things the way I liked them to be done. Today, I cannot instruct anybody. The real added value comes from people who don’t report directly to me. Some don’t even work within the company. Leadership has evolved into multi-stakeholder management. You have to find a way to make sure people deliver value, even when they don’t report to you. You do this by creating a learning environment in which every single member of the organisation — and even those outside the organisation — can be an agent of change.”

Dr Riza Kadilar at the IRC EMEA Regional Meeting 2018 in Amsterdam

Traditionally, leadership is based on control. How can one lead without control, in an environment that is constantly evolving?

“The time when leaders can see and predict the future is over. Nobody has a GPS for the future. But big changes can happen through incremental small steps. We have to move from our current position to the next best available position. This requires self-awareness. Leaders must continually reflect on their own experiences and have to make sure that their organisation is constantly learning. We need more inclusive, connected, and agile leadership. What’s also important: don’t put all the pressure on one guy. Every single person in the organisation is a leader in his or her own sphere.”

You like to stress the importance of meaning and purpose in organisations. But what about the bottom line?

“Of course, there is a tension between money-making versus meaning-making. Money has to be made. And believe me, it’s not easy, it is a jungle out there. I’ve seen companies disappear in a matter of months because some start-up launched a free app. At the same time, by creating ‘meaning’, you earn people’s attention and time. This is true for individuals, but also for companies. The main challenge is to align your own value system with that of all your stakeholders.”

You work in the banking sector. Has leadership in your sector changed since the financial crisis?

“Unfortunately, not. Negative human traits, such as greed, prevail. Last year, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan, received an income 360 times what the median employee in his company earned. Luckily, there is a debate about these matters, but it won’t change overnight. Maybe the younger generations will change corporate culture by choosing companies to work for that are more in line with their value systems.”

Are you confident about the future? Where will all this disruption lead us?

“It has only just started. It is hard to tell where it will lead. Maybe we end up with a few centralised hub economies, concentrating power in the hands of a few companies. But then again, maybe not. Take a look at the coaching and mentoring industry. You can now go online, even in the middle of the night, and chat with a quasi-human coach — actually an artificially intelligent computer programme. However, I doubt if AI can replace a human coach. There will always be a need for compassion, for human interaction. Mentoring is a developmental process, and it seems to be more in demand than ever before. We see an increase of mentoring programmes embedded in companies. Being involved in those kinds of mentoring programmes makes me very optimistic about the future. There are so many things we can learn from each other.”

Dr Riza Kadilar at the IRC EMEA Regional Meeting 2018 in Amsterdam

We just have to keep an open mind?

“Exactly. Creating open dialogues is tremendously import — within companies, but also in society as a whole. I admit that there are huge challenges ahead — climate change, sustainability, regional wars, trade protectionism — but eventually, we will solve those problems. We create problems, and then we solve them. It is what humanity has always done. What makes our times particularly challenging, is the nature of the problems we are facing. In today’s world, we are dealing with so-called ‘wicked’ problems. When you solve them, the problems themselves change or create new problems. You constantly have to come up with new solutions.”

Do you have any advice for leaders that are struggling with these ‘wicked’ problems?

“I like to quote the 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi. He famously asked why humans, in the midst of the abundance of the universe, put themselves in prison. By this, he meant an ‘either-or’ mindset, where there only seem to be two options. There is always another angle, said Rumi. I believe he is right. This attitude will help leaders to come up with better solutions.”

How do you see the leadership template evolve in the next five years considering the emergence of millennial leaders?

“We have recently completed a comprehensive survey on millennials, and our research showed us that it looks like anything fast enough, enjoyable enough, and emotionally connected enough create the sense of meaningfulness for millennials. So the leadership they value will also evolve in that direction. I, therefore, believe that leaders acting and reacting in a speed acceptable to millennials, creating a feeling of joy and wellbeing, and sustaining a healthy emotional connectedness with their stakeholders will eventually cause the emergence of a new effective leadership template.”