Boundless Leadership – Beware of the job apocalypse – are you disposable?

Not nearly enough leaders are looking to the impact of automation on job losses, including their own. Yet it’s not just that - we have a culture of blame to navigate too. How do you stack up? Are you disposable? Or indispensable?

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The stories of job losses continues. Telstra announced in June to let 8000 people go. CEO Andy Penn said, “In the future our workforce will be a smaller, knowledge-based one with a structure and way of working that is agile enough to deal with rapid change.” Futurists have been warning about the job apocalypse for some time. In Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford lays out a clear path to the demise of many production-based and middleclass workers’ jobs.

Couple the technological advancements with a growing ethos of scapegoating and the culture of blame rife in the Board to CEO circle, we now have experienced executives being hung out to dry at a fairly alarming rate. According to PWC’s 21s CEO Survey, 73% of respondents cited there is a increased pressure to hold individual leaders accountable for any misconduct.

In other words, if you’re not squeaky clean, you’re filthy dirty, and your time is up. In this time of radical transparency and magnified expectations of leaders, what can we do to future proof our position, to avoid becoming disposable?

Ego makes us disposable. As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, you are heading for a fall. Nothing upsets others more than hubris. Humility and a hunger for learning are your chief assets. Particularly obsess about the perspectives and opinions of others, especially if they are different to your own. Perspective is powerful. The more perspectives you can understand, appreciate, and respond to, the more versatile and insightful a leader you will be.

Avoid being just acceptable. Acceptable leaders are good enough. They keep the ship steady. Business as usual. They are sailing a sea of beige. A safe bet.

Here’s the thing. A safe bet is no longer safe. Our changing context needs an adventuresome spirit, not one that keeps us anchored at shore. If you’re not rocking the boat, it will surely sink. Now is not the time for business as usual. Now is the time for courageous adventure.

Be indispensable by knowing you are dispensable. Being indispensable is not about being the only one who could do the job (this is hubris). Being indispensable means that you are so good as a leader, so valuable, that people want you around. You’ve grown other leaders around you and they value your support and insight. You’ve challenged perspectives gracefully and in a way that adds value and wisdom to others around you. You look beyond the immediate to understand trends from generations past, and consider implications to generations of the future. You cultivate awareness of people, place, and planet, and the effect on humanity, habitat, and home. This makes you the go-to Chief Inspiration Officer.

Disposable leaders are like instant coffee: it gets the job done, but it makes you grimace and given any other choice you’d bin it in a moment. Indispensable leaders are like the artisan special brew on the corner coffee shop: attention and care is taken in the production and service, savoured and cherished. Wanted, not needed.

How do you fare? How substantial is your awareness? How extended is your perspective? How sustained is your curiosity and humility?


Zoë is on a mission to encourage big thinkers with big hearts to make a big difference. She is passionate about showing leaders how to challenge limitations so they can live and lead with boundless energy, confidence, and conviction. With over 30 years experience developing leaders, she has published three books: Composure: How Centered Leaders Make the Biggest Impact, Moments: Leadership when it matters most, and Loyalty: Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and create lifelong advocates. These are available here.

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