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The Dialogue Recap Episode 1

Our Managing Director Simon Lübke shares what analyzing and adapting to change means for him as the Managing Director at the World Business Dialogue and as a student at the University of Cologne. Simon is taking on the aspect of Charlene Li from our first podcast episode of “The Dialogue” that it is essential to create disruption and change as a Responsible Leader. He points out that it is not only about creating the change. To analyze and adapt to the changing environment you live in is equally important. From his point of view, this makes a leader even more successful. 

Episode 1 – Charlene Li – Leading responsibly throughout the digital age

Disruption and Change

What can we learn from today’s world? What can we learn from the Corona pandemic? And what can we add to our own lives? For me, it is the aspect that everything can change from one day to another even if one already sees small hints of the change in the far distance. This is the reason why I was very interested in hearing Charlene Li talking about disruption and how leaders react to change. In the first episode of “The Dialogue”, she starts by describing our current world as uncertain in every aspect. Both the digitalization and the Corona pandemic increase the instability and demanded change on every level. In her words: “The world is changing faster than you are comfortable with”. A Responsible Leader is therefore a leader who creates this change and accepts that one has to go through this change. But not just any change, Charlene points out, the world is changing too fast to make incremental changes. A leader must be at the forefront of that change. This differentiates him or her from a manager who just preserves the status quo. 

I can see her point of view but want to point out some aspects that need a deeper look at. It is not clear for me if the leaders must really create the change or if they just have to answer to a change coming from the outside by changing themselves or their company or their institution. Just being the one who brings change is not enough for me. A central aspect must be the change coming from the outside and how to adapt to that. In most cases, the change is mostly coming from a changing environment. Digitalization creates a completely new environment for every company, for every person and every institution. Even if there exist many software companies creating a more and more digital environment around the world, most companies did not start this change but have to adapt to this change of environment. By looking at the biggest companies in the world today and twenty years ago one can see that it is critical to adapt to those changes, otherwise, you won’t survive. Most of the well-known leaders today are in my opinion those who really started the change but I have the most respect for those leaders who successfully analyzed these changes and adapted successfully. 

Even if my position as a leader right now is called MANAGING Director I have to remind myself every day that I should not be a manager who preserves the status quo. I must see what changes the World Business Dialogue as a company faces and how I, therefore, have to change the strategy, the company, and my own behavior. As a student, I have to be aware that everything I learn today can be useless tomorrow. The most important skill I learn in university must be the skill to adapt to a changing environment. I am always a supporter of a generalistic skill set and I think this connects well to what Charlene describes. Last but not least, every student shall keep their curiosity and should not think in predetermined ways ever.