I left Australia on the first day of spring and landed in the United States in summer. I return to Australia's spring today and when I return to the United States in four days time I will be landing on the first day of autumn. And so it is not quite the Crowded House hit Four Seasons in One Day but I guess Traversing Three Seasons in Four Days isn't as catchy.
I think there is something wonderfully symbolic about this changing of, and this time the reversing of, the seasons as I cross borders, continents and cultures at a time when the world is experiencing unprecedented change and disruption and when our humanity and decency is being called into question.
In my private coaching with leaders and in my work as an advisor at Pottinger, we talk about the importance of letting go of the status quo. We warn that hanging onto the status quo is fast becoming riskier than change. Nigel Lake talks about this in his book, The Long Term Starts Tomorrow. He argues that to survive in a rapidly changing world, companies need to ensure that short term actions are aligned with a clear long-term strategic destination – thus embracing the need for change.
I speak regularly about some of what I see as not negotiable traits for the up and coming generation of daring and purposeful leaders, which includes embracing a love of transparency, and displaying a willingness and ability to change and adapt. And as individual leaders find the courage to do this, which comes with the ability to be vulnerable, they also understand that they must set up a culture within their organisations that allows for prosperity. In the book I am writing, The Supremacy Gene, Dr Alexa Muratore and I talk about the need for organisations to encourage and nurture a culture that is a precondition for success in tomorrow’s environment.
So perhaps as the seasons change, I am being reminded of the importance of remaining agile. For although I love to work with people to set goals and work towards destinations that are bold and daring, I recognize that if we ever want to achieve them, if we actually want to arrive there, then it requires a flexibility and a resilience that means accepting that along the way we may experience more than one season in any 24 hours.
As I wake to another day in NYC, uncertain of what the day will hold here, Australia ends its day, with the uncertainty over the current Government’s leadership resolved. Malcolm Turnbull has won the majority of confidence of his colleagues. He will become the new Prime Minister of Australia. And as he takes back the reins, many at home and around the world are hopeful that he will restore a sense of vibrancy and hope, not to mention a greater sense of dignity and humanity.
Simply, many are crossing their fingers and hoping that he will lead Australia out of what has been a dark place of late to somewhere much brighter.
I reflect on my blog on 1 September where I talked about how I sensed that there was a brighter future ahead for Australia. I sincerely hope that this is one of the moments that will help us to embrace such a future.
Australia was until recently the envy of many of the world’s largest economies. We seemed to know what we were doing. We seemed to be a healthy and resilient economy. And in under two years the reputation has waned and waned significantly. The Lucky Country has been lagging behind. It has been dragging its feet on major issues of human rights and basic environmental conservation and preservation.
As I talk about in the upcoming book I am co-authoring, The Supremacy Gene we must never forget that as leaders that we are there to serve others, not our own personal ambitions. And if we want to do this we must guard against the arrogance that comes with success and the blindness that accompanies this arrogance.
Tony Abbott may well have been a heavyweight boxer winning some titles at Oxford but perhaps in losing the right to lead Australia and the title of Prime Minister, Australia has a chance of regaining a much more important title and if I may, even though it isn’t as a catchy, I have changed it slightly The Lucky and Deserving Country.
Have you settled in yet? Have you found your way around? I find these questions amusing almost a fortnight into my life living in New York. Settled in? I wonder what that really means?
Like anything, words take on their own meaning to the listener. So I have given some thought to what it means to me to be getting settled.
For me it is less about knowing where to buy the bread and the milk, the toilet paper and the washing powder and more about whom I buy them from. Although I confess that I made it a day’s work to find the very best coffee locations near where I live and work!
To be settled for me means to feel comfortable and at ease in my surroundings. It suggests a sense of belonging. And to belong, you have to make an effort and find a way to contribute to your local environment.
My late father taught me the importance of local community since I was old enough to sit upright on his hip and be taken around local shops and businesses. He is still famous in the high street of my home town for his loyalty to community, for his support of small business and for his love of the ordinary person trying to make a go of things. The local grocer, Jimmy, still recounts stories of delivering a box of fruit and vegetables to my father at home. He talks about how they would sit down together, stare out at the sun as it set, share a beer and reflect on the day just been or even lives part lived.
As I make an effort, as I try to remember to leave people better off for an interaction with me, I am finding those connections. I am finding people like Rita at a local wine bar who has an uncanny ability to remember not only her customers’ names and preferences for beverage and food but an understanding of what is on their mind. I am finding people like Joe, behind the register of the local health food store. I was on my way back from the Social Security office and I put down my files and papers to pull out my wallet to pay and he pointed to the label on the front of one of my folders that read “USA visas”. And he looked at me and smiled as he said, “I like that ma’am. It is a good sticker. I am glad you will be staying.” “So am I Joe. So am I.”
And so yes, I can say that with moments like these, I am settling in.
As we pulled out of the gate and onto the runway, perhaps I should have been excited or anxious or a mixture of both for the adventure and new beginnings that lay ahead for me in my new life in New York city.
Yet, strangely, I was not preoccupied with any such emotion.
As I sat in my seat, I looked out of the passenger’s window beside me and I simply sighed
I sighed out frustration, disappointment and yearning for a country that I loved. I sighed out years of wishes and hopes that had not yet been fulfilled for people that I cared for and respected.
But then, I breathed in. I breathed in a new sense of hope and possibility for the future of Australia. For a people that deserved more. For a nation that could be more.
Yes, I have been one for saying that we have lost the art of celebration, yet equally I have felt that we needed to step up. I have said repeatedly that each of us need to accept that we have a responsibility, an obligation, to play our part in ensuring not only the future prosperity of Australia but for a much brighter and rewarding future for those who don’t live on The Island. We simply must take into account, that inspite of our location, that we are not disconnected from the global economy. Importantly, we need to acknowledge that we are not disconnected from the shared welfare of the inhabitants of this world and I don’t mean just the people.
At a time when the world is suffering disruption through innovation, upheaval from human injustice and neglect, I found that as our wheels lifted off the ground, that I breathed in a second time very deeply. For I could see something much greater than the moment that was now. And so I enjoyed the draw of this breath, one that promised a much brighter future for those who dared to care.
Cassandra Kelly shares her thoughts and personal stories on challenges and opportunities in today's business world.
The Supremacy Gene
Why do some of the greatest companies now rest in the corporate graveyard? Stay tuned for Cassandra's upcoming book to find out.