Leadership has never been easy, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is tougher than ever. As a nation, we are challenged by the events of September 11 and the ongoing threats that stunning day represents. As a society, we are challenged to maintain cherished values and rights and at the same time to change some of the missionary zeal with which we relate economically, politically, and culturally to other peoples. As an economy, we find our leaders and organizations more open and vulnerable due to increased scrutiny and persistent demands for transparency in the wake of Enron and Andersen. These and many other challenges require all of us to change some of our attitudes, habitual ways of doing things, and even deeply held values.
These are adaptive challenges. An adaptive challenge is not like technical work, in which you can prescribe a solution that doesn't require people to change. To meet adaptive challenges, people have to go through a period of painful adjustment. Leading people to make these changes is risky, because you are asking them to absorb various forms of loss -- asking them to out and out give up something in the interests of something to be maintained, to be conserved, or to be gained.