In Conversation With
This month Barbara is in conversation with Chris Langdon, who is co-author with Nik Gowling of our Book of the Month, Think the Unthinkable.
This hard-hitting book presents their extensive research into why leaders are overwhelmed or failing to lead in these times of huge complexity and disruption, and how they can adapt. It prods the coaches and consultants who work with these leaders to step up to a different way of engaging.
Be warned, this shift requires confronting many deeply ingrained beliefs, assumptions and sometimes values. On many fronts, this will take enormous courage, yet the consequences of remaining comfortably avoidant or unaware will be much worse.
Their conversation focuses on the challenges of leading in this vastly changed world, where tried and trusted approaches no longer work. The underlying theme of the conversation is that of courage – the kind of courage required to change how one leads and co-leads, whilst simultaneously responding to continual change. It references examples from their respective home countries, the United Kingdom and South Africa as well as from other parts of the world and draw the lessons from them.
It speaks to purpose, and a greater meaning beyond the individual, team or organization. This felt sense of deep purpose is essential in enabling us to make the kind of decisions necessary for the future we face and that of our children and the next generations in the context of the burning issues of our time, including climate change.
With so many practical insights and learning packed into just half an hour, this conversation is a must to schedule in!
Chris Langdon is co-author of ‘Thinking the Unthinkable‘ with Nik Gowing, and Director of Think Unthinkable Ltd.
Chris Langdon has been fascinated by change for 30 years. As senior foreign affairs producer for BBC TV News, Chris recorded the fall of communism between 1989 and 1990. He left the media to become Associate Director of the UK Foreign Office at Wilton Park, where he chaired over 50 high level change events, with specialisms including digital transformation and reform in Central and South East Europe.
He directed two documentaries on change in Kosovo and in Bosnia to assist the process of transformation. The experiences convinced him of the power of using media positively to foster change. Chris then led a project taking leaders from SE Europe to engage with policymakers in 8 EU capitals for the European Stability Initiative. With a passion for conflict resolution, he headed up the Oxford Research Group, leading their peace building work in Israel.
Chris has always been interested in how to link bottom-up and top-down change. So, in 2014 when his former BBC colleague Nik Gowing asked him to help with a few interviews with leaders and why they were struggling to lead, Chris agreed – providing they were all recorded and analysed. 6 years and 5,000 pages of transcripts of confidential conversations and much analysis later, their book, Thinking the Unthinkable has become an international bestseller. Through their consultancy of the same name, Chris and Nik advise leaders on how to transform their leadership – to overcome conformity, to be courageous and engage the views of their multigenerational workforce. They stress the importance of living and breathing their Purpose.
Nowadays, Thinking the Unthinkable actively helps leaders understand and adapt their organisations to the Climate Emergency.
Chris is currently working with senior policy-makers, business leaders and heads of third sector organisations, including the two Directorates of the European Commission and a global charity. He is a Fellow of the RSA, and a member of the Economic Singularity Group which includes many of the UK’s leading thinkers on AI.