Unlocking Your Leadership Puzzle: Celebrate Your Distinctive Role and Create a Powerful Legacy

Over the last hundred years or so, the man named Charles Holland Duell has become the poster child for lack of imagination.

Charles Duell, born in 1850, served as the Commissioner of the United States Patent Office around the turn into the 20th century. During his tenure as patent commissioner, he examined patent applications for all kinds of inventions. And in 1899, he said,

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

Or so the story goes…

Actually, there is no credible evidence to suggest that he said such a thing. In fact, quite the contrary – Charles Holland Duell went on record to say,

In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote to you about how fast society is changing. According to computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, the 21st century alone will see 1,000 times the advancement of the century before. 

The technology that leaders use today when leading their teams is vastly different than, say, the tech of the 1990s. Fax machines long ago gave way to scanners and landline-based conference calls became Zoom meetings.

Even 5 years ago the team leadership landscape looked very different. The pandemic caused a massive overnight shift, prompting organizations to adopt dozens of remote work management technologies. Then we were communicating and collaborating electronically, exclusively. That created a brand new work environment with new trust dynamics, new kinds of accountability…

Come to think of it, Charles Duell had quite the foresight. 

Technology is experiencing more and faster change today than ever before, and it is not going to slow down. And as leaders, it is our responsibility to understand the technology empowering us, our teams, and our organizations to continue doing what we do. Once we understand it, we can better anticipate the technological tools that will empower us even further.

In my consulting experience, I have found that the most effective relationship with technology is based on three pillars…

1. Digital literacy.

If we live in a digital world, so are the people our organizations serve. So are our teams. Our products are made in and used in a digital world. We are surrounded by technology – and in order to continue to thrive we must understand it.

By no means do we have to become tech experts. But we will only be able to best serve our teams and organizations when we are familiar with the tech making our operations happen, including analytics, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.

2. Agility and adaptability.

The world is changing, and fast. And the more technology evolves, the faster it evolves, and the more its ripple effects are felt throughout society.

As leaders we must hold consistently to our values, but hold no attachments to how we live them. As we model adaptability for our teams, we foster an organizational culture that can keep up with constant change.

3. Continual learning.

John Maxwell says that

“Leaders are learners.”

Because we want our teams to develop and our organizations to thrive, leaders are constantly seeking growth. How much more relevant this is in the digital age!

Change is a constant. The more we are willing to learn, the better we are able to anticipate change – and the better we are able to adapt to it and experience the benefit that it has to offer.

Which Charles Holland Duell are you? Are you the one that society thinks him to be, who does not see potential change, or the true Duell, who eagerly anticipates it?

This week I have homework for you: on a piece of paper, write down the three pillars of technological proficiency. Then, write down three things you can do to develop your leadership in those areas.

That’s all for now. 😉

Become your best version,


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