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‘Evolve or die’: Why ambition is crucial in the new world of work

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

As the potential for business growth dwindles, CEOs must take charge and make “extraordinary things happen”.

“Evolve or die” was the wording used in a 2023 survey by PWC, which found 75 per cent of the chief executives surveyed believe their businesses’ growth will decline for the rest of 2023.

Furthermore, 40 per cent said they have doubts as to whether their company will be economically viable in a decade.

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Vanessa Vershaw, author and leadership expert, said the key to staying relevant in the future of work is to become “unreasonably ambitious”.

“What we need are more leaders with unreasonable ambition to make extraordinary things happen. Leaders who know how to access that extra 60 per cent untapped psychological horsepower to help their organisations navigate out of the scramble and enabling them to perform exponentially better,” said Ms Vershaw.

“And the benefits are irrefutable — the unreasonably ambitious are able to accelerate their ability to problem-solve in situations that are confronting for the first time, relentlessly pursue seemingly impossible goals with unwavering optimism and courageously devise bold strategic plays irrespective of outdated road maps to outrun the pace of change.”

To help leaders take charge and mould themselves a place in an uncertain workforce, Ms Vershaw provided three recommendations:

1. Reinvent yourself to thrive

“Mindset is everything. Committing to approaching life with a learner mentality is the first step in disrupting old records and patterns blocking your ability to evolve and receive new information,” explained Ms Vershaw.

“What you think matters. And being prepared to blow up your reliance on your old bag of tricks [is] non-negotiable if you want to succeed.”

2. Move beyond resilience and simply coping

“You’ve heard of garden-variety resilience — the ability to bounce back after you’ve had to deal with adversity. But the more important moment comes before negative events occur. Being able to anticipate what’s to come and stay calm in the face of potential danger or situations you are confronting for the first time is key to growing unreasonable ambition,” Ms Vershaw said.

“It’s what helps you build an adaptive mindset and sets you up for sustained success.”

3. Be delusional

Ms Vershaw continued: “The unreasonably ambitious could be described as slightly delusional. Not in a Madhatter kind of way but in that they embrace harsh realities and trust their ability to figure things out. They think like rockstars — confident in their own abilities but also knowing their limits and relying heavily on an entourage to assist them.”

“Leaders with unreasonable ambition don’t hesitate to seek out broader perspectives and ask for help. There is no room for ego when we are committed to moving the world forward.”

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.