On The Path Of Winners
BY BAYO OGUNMUPE
How Being Flexible Aids Success
IT is in the nature of life that some people will be successful while others fail. Some will be billionaires, live better lives, enjoy greater fulfillment and satisfaction, live happier love lives and contribute more to society than others. Moreover others with promising careers end up as second rate and also ran mediocres.
At the onset of this new millennium, the Menninger Institute of Leadership, Kansas City in the USA, conducted a study on what qualities would be most important for success and happiness in this 21st century? After painstaking research, the enumerators concluded that the most important single quality that you can develop, in this time of rapid technological change, is flexibility. Thus, being flexible is the greatest facilitator of change for success in today’s world.
The antonym of flexibility is rigidity – meaning: an unwillingness to change in the face of new and overwhelming information or circumstances. In creative problem solving, the opposite of flexible thinking is fixed or mechanical thinking. Failing to approach life with an open mind is to react predictably in every situation. Your being flexible is therefore very essential if you wish to transcend mediocrity.
Today, the speed of change is inexorable. Now we are living in an age where change is taking place at a faster rate than ever before in human history. Surprisingly, the rate of change is increasing every year. Besides, change today is not only faster, it is unpredictable since it isn’t following a straight line but starting, stopping and moving in new directions.
Thus, change is beckoning on us from all directions, and we must be flexible and adapt or fail. Being unpredictable, change often forces us to scrap plans as a result of an unexpected development coming from an unexpected direction. Therefore, we have to remain flexible in our thinking and actions. For those with rigid beliefs, change causes enormous stress. They have been ensnared by the comfort of the workplace, with their current methods and processes, change causes them pain.
However, three factors drive change nowadays, each of them multiplying by each other to increase the speed of change. The first change factor is the explosion of information and knowledge in every area of human endeavour. One new discovery in our competitive marketplace can change the dynamics of your business overnight. A major industry can be rendered obsolete by a new product or service that achieves the same result faster, cheaper or easier than before.
A critical event, such as the September 11, 2001 US terrorist attack, the market disaster such as the Wall Street scandals which caused the 2008 World Economic Depression, can transform the entire business environment. For example, when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1989, the Iron Curtain came down and the Cold War ended, the defence industry – the weapon manufacturers across the world was jolted into panic. Thousands of highly trained and skilled executives were laid off permanently. An entire industry was shut down and certain nation states went into recession.
The effects of change are always overwhelming and unavoidable. Only the flexible are able to respond effectively. Which is why you should be open minded and flexible. You must be constantly open and alert to new ideas, information and knowledge that can help you in your business or in the achievement of your goals. You can make a fortune with one new idea. Leaders are readers, it is essential that you keep abreast of new technologies in your field. Read all publications in your field. Read the best selling books in your field. Attend seminars and conferences relevant to your field.
The second factor driving change is the rapid growth and development of new technology. Every new piece of scientific knowledge leads to advancement in technology. This allows business to be done faster, cheaper and easier. This means whatever works now is already obsolete. Today’s new technology has a shelf life of six months, before it is replaced by a gadget that will do the job faster and cheaper. If you refused to adapt, your competitors will soon put you out of business.
Being in business today is an endless game of leapfrog. You have to leapfrog over your competitors by serving customers faster, better and cheaper. Your competitors in turn leapfrogs over you with newer, better or faster products or service. Also, your competitors imitating you, will force you out of your comfort zone to your disconfeiture.
Finally, the third element driving change is competition. Competitors are more creative today than before. They hire solution providers not mediocres. To survive the tough and intense competition, you have to become even more focused and flexible. L earn to say, ‘‘I was wrong.” Admit your errors promptly. Mediocres use eighty per cent of their time covering up their own wrongdoing. People fail because of their refusal to admit errors. It isn’t a flaw to make mistakes. Deal with the world as it is, not the way you wish it were or the way it might have been in the past. Face the truth, be open to new realities and listen to your customers. Accept the fact that you may achieve your greatest success in an area very different from what you planned. Being flexible alone enables you to triumph.
Our champion today is William Ewart Gladstone, the British orator and statesman. In a career spanning 60 years, he served as prime minister four separate times 1868-74; 1880-85; February to July 1886, and 1892 to 1894. Also more than any person, he served as chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) four times. Gladstone was also Britain’s oldest Prime Minister, he resigned for the final time when he was 84 years old.
Born in December 1809, Gladstone died in May 1898 aged 88 years and serving as premier for a total of 13 years. He entered Parliament in 1832. Beginning as a High Tory, Gladstone served in the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel, becoming a Peelite after the split of the Conservatives. In 1859, the Peelites merged with the Whigs and the Radicals to form the Liberal Party. As chancellor, Gladstone was committed to low public spending and to electoral reform, introducing secret voting.
After his electoral defeat in 1874, Gladstone resigned as leader of the Liberal Party. He formed his second ministry in 1880, passing the Third Reform Act. Back in government in 1886, Gladstone proposed Irish Home Rule, which was rejected by Parliament. He formed his last ministry in 1892 at the age of 82. Gladstone resigned in 1894 in opposition to increased naval expenditures.
Gladstone is famous for his oratory, his religiosity, his liberalism, his rivalry with the Conservative Leader, Benjamin Disraeli. He had poor relations with Queen Victoria who once complained, ‘‘Gladstone always addresses me as if I were a public meeting.: Gladstone is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers. Gladstone was a lifelong bibliophile to the extent that in his lifetime, he read more than 20,000 books. He eventually came to own a library of over 32,000 books. Along with Otto von Bismarck who unified Germany, Winston Churchill, who won World War II for the world, and Ronald Reagan who dispersed the Soviet Union, a study of the legacy of Gladstone will convince you that older people make better leaders.