As the new year approaches, it feels like the end of 2013 might actually mark the end of an era. A grand statement I know, but after the death of 20th century icons like Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, and high profile falls from grace from captains of industry and city mayors alike, it feels like last century’s traditional hierarchies are finally breaking down. And now, as we enter new, uncharted territory, our old models of leadership look tired and in urgent need of renewal.

So, while I was pondering this big troubling thought, synchronicity led me to this fab speech by Dov Seidman, given at the RSA last week. Seidman is CEO of LRN, a global ethics consultancy, and here he outlines the implications for living and working in a world where the old rules no longer apply.

Seidman is the first CEO I’ve come across (perhaps aside from Paul Polman of Unilever and the late Ray Andersen of Interface FLOR), who not only “gets” sustainability and values-driven strategy, but can also link this to the future impacts of the new world order posed by hyper-connectivity, globalisation, and the values shift from baby boomers to generation X and Y. He says:

“We live in a world that has rapidly gone from connected to interconnected to interdependent. In government, business, and society, we are now rising and falling together. One banker at his desk can lose $2 billion and affect global markets. One vegetable vendor can catalyze a revolution toward freedom throughout the Middle East…

This is a profound shift into what he calls the “era of behaviour” and it has dramatic implications for businesses and governments alike. Seidman reckons that sticking to the old rules of engagement will simply lead to demise, and to truly address the scale of today’s global complex challenges, we must look to moral philosophy for guidance.

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He quotes the most famous line from the Godfather – “It’s not personal, it’s just business” – and attests that it no longer qualifies as sound management advice. To succeed in the future, we can no longer sustain separate, amoral spheres for our professional and personal lives – being ‘good’ people who just have ‘bad’ jobs or work for ‘evil’ corporations. He says:

Everything is now personal as the world is now not just interdependent, it is morally interdependent.”

Merging the personal and the corporate worlds won’t happen overnight, and it will certainly be a tricky business, but it is the kind of new year’s revolution I’m looking forward to seeing in our brave new century. So, here’s to 2014, the dawn of the era of behaviour!

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