The Crucible of Transition-
Thresholds and How They Affect Your Leadership Journey

by Fran Love

My husband and I recently counted the significant changes we have been through in our married life. We recalled the questions and longings that brought us to the threshold of each major change. We talked about the confusion we encountered when the old wasn’t working like it used to; the anxieties we experienced looking into things that were not yet clear. In these times we felt a push to leave what we knew so well and a pull to something not yet known.

Thresholds are the in-between places we find ourselves in when we have to let something go from our past in order to reach for something in the future. Letting go of the familiar to walk into the unknown causes a degree of tension for most of us. Threshold times can be momentous, like career changes. Or they can be small, like letting go of attitudes or perspectives that served us well in the past but won’t in the future. Regardless, we pay attention to them. How we do this will determine how well we develop as leaders.

Young leaders at threshold moments are like bridled race horses, straining to dash forward. Older leaders are like hobbled horses, fearful of the future and longing to stay in the comfortable and the routine. Few relish the opportunity to slow down and to reflect, one way to handle transition that for many is as appealing as queuing in line for a Disney ride on a hot summer day while wearing a polyester shirt. But that’s exactly what we need to do: no, not wear the polyester shirt, but to stay put, to stand there and wait. We can treasure this resting stop by being present to the moment, with no pressure to hurry on. Threshold times are locked treasure boxes, and the key to unlock them is time — time to suspend assumptions, time to slow down and time to reflect.

In 2005 Friedman wrote the international best seller, The World is Flat, in which he alerted us to how connected the world is. In his latest book, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back, he corrects his earlier opinion of how connected we are. We are not just connected, he states, we are hyper-connected.

To prove his point of how connected we are, Friedman reminds us that when he was researching for The World is Flat, Facebook did not exist. Twitter was a sound birds made, 4G was a parking spot, clouds were in the sky, apps were what you filled out for jobs, texts were what you found in books, and skype was a typo.

In a hyper connected world everyone is our competitor. Being average will no longer cut it. We have to excel. Friedman argues that in order for individuals, corporations and nations to survive today we have to retrieve our past competitive edge. Whatever we do, we have to do it really, really well. [So if we are really good at relaxation, we have to be on the cutting edge of relaxation. If we excel at being humble, then we make sure we are more humble than anyone else. Smile.