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What Leading Change Means in Our World Today

By CAL Founding President Samuel Kim

The world is facing unprecedented challenges—growing income inequality, economic uncertainties, political instability, the refugee crisis, and climate change, among others. Advances in technology have accelerated globalization, affecting the pace at which we work, live and connect with one another.

To survive and thrive in this challenging environment, we need to move away from unconscious living. The evolutionary theory of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ has never been truer.

It is not the strongest who will survive nor the most intelligent, but those who are able to adapt to the ever-evolving global landscape.

At the same time, connections and collaborations between people and nations have become more important than ever before. Thus, for the sustainability of themselves, their organizations and their communities at large, leaders must foster a culture of inclusiveness and innovation.

The Age of Asia

Despite global uncertainties marked primarily by the current pandemic, there are still grounds for optimism if we can muster the courage to turn crises into opportunities. In a vibrant region like Asia, I believe there is still much room for productive development in the future.

Let us look at the ASEAN bloc as an example. It the 7th largest economy in the world and the 3rd in Asia after China and India, with a combined GDP of US$2.7 trillion. With its population of 662 million, ASEAN is set to become the world’s 4th largest economy by 2050. ASEAN is also young and energetic, with 70% of its population below the age of 35. Google reported that the region has 280 million internet users and is the world’s fastest-growing internet market, with 4 million new users every month. 

Collaboration and inclusion are especially powerful forces in Asia because of the region’s exceptional cultural diversity; it contains a vibrant mix of religious, social and ethnic influences that is like no other in the world. And ultimately, Asia’s full strength will stem from bringing together people from all of these different backgrounds, respecting each other’s uniqueness and pursuing shared values and goals.

The New 21st-Century Leaders

The rest of the world should take full advantage of the robust growth in Asia to unlock new possibilities for positive social change. This Center I currently head recognizes the value of effective leadership in facing the headwinds of the 21st century. It seeks to address public needs and problems in Asia through research, development, training and publication initiatives in the areas of leadership and innovation. Leveraging the vast educational resources at Harvard, we are driven by our aim of empowering people at all levels of the social structure—individuals, organizations and governmental bodies—to understand today’s challenging issues, identify emerging trends and turn obstacles into opportunities by addressing them constructively and innovatively.

A globalized world requires leaders to develop cross-cultural competencies and a facility for communication, negotiation, collaborative team-work and practical reasoning. All of these skills are necessary in order to operate effectively in today’s complex and competitive landscape. The Center’s programs, built on the leadership philosophy of ‘Knowing, Doing and Being’—or ‘Head, Hands and Heart’—bridge the gap between different environments and cultivate a new mindset amongst leaders in Asia, enabling them to become more competent, ethical and entrepreneurial and thus helping us all to shape a better tomorrow. ‘Knowing’ refers to harnessing the knowledge acquired over a lifetime and utilizing it to drive progress and change.

‘Doing’ means applying what we have learned in order to create solutions for everyday problems and challenges.

‘Being’ encourages leaders to understand themselves more deeply through self-reflection and to discover how they as individuals can contribute to their communities, adding value to the world for a sustainable future.

When leaders empower their organizations or communities to channel their competitive, collaborative and innovative instincts, everyone will reap the dividends and amplify the positive impact on society. As Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”


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