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HBA1 students vs. the forces transforming the world

  • Communications
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  • Nov 27, 2017
HBA1 students vs. the forces transforming the world

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner of McKinsey & Company

Four forces are shaping the future. Each one massive in its own right. But combine them, and there is great opportunity. And risk.

HBA1 students heard about these shifts and the role they will play as future leaders from Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, at the Thomas d’Aquino Lecture on Leadership on Oct. 17, 2017 in the BMO Financial Group Auditorium.

The Thomas d’Aquino Lecture on Leadership was established in 2006 to salute Tom d’Aquino’s outstanding contributions to national and international business, public policy, and the voluntary sector. It is supported by the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership.

Four forces that business leaders must face

“There are so many exciting things going on, there are so many frightening things going on. It’s a time when we will really need leadership to get through this and have a wonderful time for humanity. You couldn’t be in a better place than this School to go through it,” he said.

Barton outlined the four forces that will have a major effect on the future:

  • The shift in economic power – “The world’s economic centre of gravity is shifting back to Asia.”
  • The acceleration in technology disruption – “Technological innovation doesn’t care about pandemics or financial crises or whether North Korea is going to launch a missile or not. It just continues banging out innovation in every dimension of what we do. All of us have to consider ourselves technology organizations.”
  • The rapidly aging world – “We don’t realize it, because it happens slowly. But there are some big implications for a much older world. Particularly on you. There are lots of opportunities for new products and services, and also changes in lifelong learning as older people reskill and retool. The idea that people will retire at 60 or 65 when they will probably live to be 90 is a fiction. Maybe people like me will be joining you in university as we reskill and retool.”
  • The need and desire for a new societal deal – “There’s a lot more inequality, there’s a lot more polarization in the world. This search for a new equilibrium is a game changer in terms of the future – populism and short-termism or more rational, long-term thinking? It’s not clear which way that is going.”

Barton told students it will require a concerted effort by business and university leaders to come to a new deal for society.

“And the problem is, if we don’t, the typical way this gets resolved, at least from my understanding of history, is usually pretty bloody.”

Building leader character muscle

The bottom line on leadership is that it’s not what you know, it’s who you are.

Character, Barton told students, is what’s going to matter the most. Their character, values, and the resilience they have to be able to deal with setbacks and shocks that come into the system. Their ability to multitask, and focus while they’ve got a whole bunch of crazy stuff going on. That takes a certain skill.

All of this requires muscles you’re not born with. You learn it. That’s something to think about in your career, he said.

“What are the ways you’re going to develop your leadership character muscle to be able to thrive in this period?”