When I was in my early twenties, a close relative of mine was
murdered on the street by someone he didn’t know. It was a random act of violence that threw me into a spiral of sadness, fear,
and negativity. I saw danger around every corner. The future was
dark; the past was a fairy tale that had morphed into a cruel joke.
But the days passed, and I muddled through. At some point,
when I got up in the morning and looked in the mirror, I saw hope again
in the eyes that looked back at me. And I started the next phase of my life.
I am a believer in the power of optimism, the drive and creativity that
possibility can engender. I believe in it not the way a child would, but
knowing full well the perils and pitfalls that the world can put in your path.
Today there is much to be anxious about when we get up each day. Uncertainty reigns as rapid change disrupts expectations and social norms.
Global leadership is fractured and economic conditions fluctuate widely.
Specters loom, from climate change to cyberterrorism. The relentless pace
can make you want to curl up in a corner, wary of what might come next.
Or you can stare unblinkingly at this time of chaos and dig into the difficult work of building a better tomorrow. This issue is dedicated to that
sense of hope, sharing leadership tales and insights collected at the Fast
Company Innovation Festival, a weeklong gathering of top entrepreneurs,
thinkers, creators, and practitioners dedicated to holding business to a
higher standard. More than 8,000 attendees (32% men and 68% women;
average age of 38; from 60 different countries and 45 states) participated
in 200-plus workshops, panels, studio tours, and keynotes.
I’ve culled 10 lessons from my experiences that week, which help fuel my
optimism. I hope that they, along with the rest of our coverage, inspire you
to embrace your own future. We never really know what’s going to happen
next; but if we focus on what we can control—and our own reactions to the
world around us—we can find meaning and create impact, bringing to life
the dreams we all share.
How to Lead in 2018
1. MOVE QUICKLY,
BUT DON’T RUSH.
When Ford CEO Jim
Hackett (page 82) talks
about leading the
that he took over in
2017, he acknowledges
the need to speed up its
more new things. It’s
one reason he’s endorsed fast prototyping
at Ford’s new Greenfield Labs in Palo Alto.
If Ford wants to withstand the revolutions
of autonomous driving
knows, its culture has
to move beyond methodical and reliable.
But Hackett also isn’t
saying what Ford’s precise business model
will be after these revolutions play out. And
he’s okay with that uncertainty. He’s too impatient to stand still,
yet deeply patient
about selecting an ultimate course of action.
2. COMMUNE WITH
Someone once told me,
“Before you say something in anger, count
backward from 100.”
Keeping calm is one of
the hardest challenges
in times of stress. It is
also the route to gaining perspective. When
Questlove (page 50)
talks about his love of
silence—and how it
serves as a creative engine for him—he’s definitely onto something.
The sound of silence is
the sound of someone
3. TAKE THE PULPIT.
One of my favorite
verses from the musical Hamilton is the lead
of Aaron Burr early in
the play: “If you stand
for nothing, what will
you fall for?” As leaders
and as businesses, we
are defined by the positions we take on the
most difficult issues. To
Starbucks CEO Kevin
Johnson (page 40), that
means pledging to hire
youth.” To soccer star
Abby Wambach (page
68), that means support for both U. S. patriotism and Colin
Kaepernick. As Nike’s
Hannah Jones (page
68) puts it, “A brand
that doesn’t stand for
something is no longer
a brand worth working
for.” This is not a moment to be shy.
4. MAKE YOUR
may claim to be stewards of our social contract, but other
their own leadership as
well. “Think about the
sustainability movement,” says Nike’s
Jones. “You fly across
the world and you see
windmill farms everywhere. It doesn’t matter
what the U.S. administration is doing; we are
all moving to renewable energy.” From education to gender
identity norms, businesses play a central
role in advancing
global culture. Forward-thinking leaders
embrace that responsibility with conviction.