New Year, New Journey

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison explains why we are at our best when we live—and lead—in the moment.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Take Control: The Career You Want, Where You Want.

Imagine you are about to embark on a journey—leading 10,000 people on a cross-country trip by foot from New York City to Santa Monica, California.

As you stand in Battery Park, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, gathered around you are people from dozens of countries—different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. And your job is to lead this diverse group….

We know that a solitary walker, putting in 10 hours a day, could cover those 2,800 miles in about 90 days. But this is not a race—it’s about helping 10,000 people become more than they thought possible. Putting in about 2.5 hours a day, it will take our group a year—all of 2023.

A monumental challenge, to say the least. All along the way, there will be failure and success, fatigue and joy…. The unexpected will become the expected.

It’s a new year—and a new journey. Whether we’re leading five people or 50,000 or only ourselves, leadership is all about transporting people—emotionally and sometimes physically—from here to there.

So, what do we need to take on this journey known as 2023?

Believe… and belief. It was one of the first calls I received on the first business day of the new year. The person on the line was frustrated with the world around us—ambiguity and constant change. “It’s a new year, but the same headlines. Can we really do this again?” the person said with a sigh.

Every time I suggested—Have you ever asked…? Did you think about ….?—I could never get out more than four words. The person jumped in with, “I agree, but…”

“I get it,” I said. “But the real question is, what do you believe you can change?” That’s when the conversation shifted.

First, we need to believe—in the destination, the mission, the purpose, and in ourselves. Then, we need to bring that belief to others. In fact, the leader’s job is always to deliver belief. Say it. Mean it. Act it!

Authenticity. It outweighs charisma any day, in every way. We don’t have to be Churchill-like. Rather, it’s all about being vulnerable, immersed in purpose and connecting emotionally with others. The more authentic we become, the more people will trust what we say and mirror what we do.

So, what shouldn’t we put in the backpack for 2023?

Ego. It’s not your amigo. When you are overly convinced you’re this, you’re probably that. The fine line between confidence and cockiness is humbleness. Our gateway for personal growth opens with humility and self-awareness. A leader will never improve a team unless they first improve themselves.

Rigidity. Life and leadership are not linear, nor is the path to the destination. Agility rises above the rest in 2023. Plan a little, think a lot, decide always.

Just days ago, from east to west, one time zone to the next, fireworks lit up the skies as the clock struck midnight, ushering in a New Year. People everywhere came together, filled with excitement for what they hope the next 12 months will bring. But what about January 2nd … or June 2nd? The fact is our highest leadership calling is to create a renewal of hope every day. This is not a journey measured in months and miles, but rather in milestones—celebrating each achievement along the way.

Indeed, we are at our best when we live—and lead—in the moment.

May all of us—family and friends, colleagues and clients—enjoy a happy and healthy 2023.