This is the end, not the beginning or middle, of the Information Age. What comes next? It's The Age of Meaning.
Information (as networks of data and connected people) has done its work. We need to move on, to build rapidly on what has been achieved, and to acknowledge where we have failed.
There is a new vagueness and uncertainty in the behaviour of the global corporations. A more frequent looking-over-of-shoulder. A loss of the common bravado. That's because they're no longer sure where they're going. "Why do we matter?" is suddenly an important and far tougher question.
Everything that's worked before, now seems not to. The focus by operational management on different strategies, different models of value, different information, and different approaches to marketing, are all red herrings.
What's missing here is a simple thing, yet one that we rarely hear discussed. It's direction. "Where to next. And why?"
The new leadership challenge
Direction is a problem of leadership – THE problem, in fact. And corporate leadership has been, overall, inconsistent of late. What has been lacking? If you think about it, you'll see that the shared sense of meaning (and under that, the consequent shared sense of purpose, value and values) upon which confident and successful trade depends, has been diluted.
In the most useful, simplest, yet surprisingly often overlooked explanation, leaders lead by creating and managing meaning. They lead, in fact, by enacting the human values and standards that they, as individuals, stand for. They lead by standing up for, not just standing for, their values. This, fundamentally, is the core of the new corporate brand.
The gap between what's promised in communications (and many leaders have been wrongly taught to see their jobs as being primarily about communication) and what's tangibly experienced as leadership behaviour by the organisation's internal and external global stakeholders, is what marks the success or failure of the leader.