LEADING FOR THE FUTURE: POLICY ENTREPRENEURSHIP

2021 was an unforgettable year. Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us with a great deal of uncertainty. We’re all different in how much uncertainty we can tolerate in life. Do our life and work situations look uncertain? Let’s be honest. They always are. We need to look within ourselves to find the certainty we need. 

Leaders are not born, but made. Leaders need skills in planning for the unexpected. Leaders must demonstrate a spirit of purpose and optimism to reinforce the idea that we could have a better future out of any uncertainty. 

Leadership cannot be taught. But, leaders must learn how to deal with growing uncertainty and complexity in the world by anchoring the experience in other leaders’ personal leadership stories. Developing the next generation of leaders is critical to the success of further education at all levels. Leading for the future can be only achieved from what we learn and practice today.

Personal development is the process of learning and self-improvement, which focuses on building up my own awareness, knowledge, and skills, as well as an overall sense of self-identity. Some activities could include anything from developing a new talent or fulfilling personal aspirations by improving health conditions and lifestyle or learning a new skill, instrument, or foreign language. 

To me, personal development refers to the learning of professional or academic credentials in a form of annual study retreat, which can be achieved independently, or gained along with a cohort within the workplace or academic setting. I continue to embark on studying for a new degree, gaining a professional qualification, or attending conferences and events. 

I am already in my mid 40s but I am still passionate about learning something new. However, learning goals without specific actions are only wishes. In addition, without a group dynamic, learning is mostly useless to me. I take each learning goal seriously from my own assessment and write down the necessary action plan to fit into my personal leadership development plan. That is my annual ritual at the beginning of the year. 

I try to ensure that I identify potential impediments as well as resources – such as key people in my network or targeted leadership training programs that could help me to learn with the like-minded as well as a group of diverse people with different perspectives. Learning aspirations should also fit into the timeline for goals in my leadership development plan. So far, my learning goals have been fairly well integrated in my professional and personal life over years. I am content but I still feel hunger for learning.

Leadership is in demand. The complex challenges that come after teams, organizations, and societies are demanding new ways of thinking about how to shape the future. The starting point for people who want to constantly develop their leadership qualities is an insight into what’s going on inside my own unconsciousness. Without that no one will be able to understand what goes on inside anyone else, let alone the complexity of behavioral consequence that follows that. 

Perhaps, digging into the emotions and unconsciousness has not been central to leadership development up until now. It is difficult and uncomfortable especially in formal business or political leadership settings. Especially in Asia, we’ve been taught to suppress our emotions and not disclose them to others if they irritate us or frustrate us. We often tell people “I’m fine” or “I’m ok”, when we are not ok. We often hide our feelings and thoughts from other people. We feel awkward as a result, but these hidden feelings and thoughts also drive our behaviors. 

That said, leading for the future is not about the latest technologies that we currently develop, but about the ability to notice our own feelings, emotions, and motivations and to read and sense the same in other people. Some might have called this mindful leadership. Being mindful helps us to detach ourselves from situations and specific circumstances rather than being immersed in mindless conflicts or arguments. Ultimately, with this mindful approach, we could better take control of our own destiny and influence the outcomes of our team and organization.

This coming year, we will see that new leadership takes shape and faces as many complex assignments as the position would allow. By the end of the presidential term, I hope to see that they say that they have gained tremendous knowledge and built lasting relationships which could go the extra mile beyond their presidential term or political career. I would like to elect someone who could train and mentor others, not weigh down people with different ideas. 

I also want that new leadership acts like a policy entrepreneur. Policy entrepreneur is an energetic actor who engages in collaborative efforts in and around government to promote policy innovations. In recent years, major challenges have become a major driving force for designing innovation policies for the nation. 

The societal-challenge of innovation, often labeled as transformative innovation, has exposed the limitations of the existing government to deal with such challenges, resulting in a call for new policy approaches. 

Directionality is important. Directionality is often acknowledged as an essential component of contemporary innovation policy-making. Questions have been raised about how and by whom the directionality of innovation policy is supposed to be set. Despite considerable attention on this matter, contributions have not reached the critical mass of the policy process of directionality. We haven’t fully examined empirical cases to investigate directionality in practice, either. 

Over 20 years of leadership experience investing, operating and scaling companies as an entrepreneurial venture capitalist, I’ve learned that venture capital is all about bringing in new management and helping change direction at a pivotal moment. To attract the best policy talents after the election is complete, it’s important to have a clear point of view beyond just making best wishes for economic prosperity or selling a vote-winning political agenda. What new leadership is supposed to do as a policy entrepreneur is to align with the nation’s grand vision with a clear sense of directionality. That is what I will vote for.

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