The greatest leaders are as much a product of their time as they are a reflection of their skill. Without Hitler, what would we remember of Churchill? Without Xerxes, the legend of the 300 Spartans led by Leonidas would never have happened. Without the right context, even those with the greatest potential remain part of the peanut gallery, shouting epitaphs at those who wear the limelight.
It’s in times of crisis that leaders emerge—times of change, times like the present.
Our world is a fascinating one; we’re at an inflection point, one defined by big data and business analytics. What was once science fiction is becoming reality. Let’s be frank though—that sounds pretty hackneyed. After all, hasn’t everything been science fiction once?
This is true. It’s also true, however, that science fiction is a deep well to draw from. A well where some ideas are so fantastical that it seems impossible that they’ll ever become reality. Asimov, a science fiction writer, for example, wrote speculatively of “psychohistory” in his Foundation series.1 A form of mathematical sociology, scientists would use massive amounts of behavioral information to predict the future. Through doing so, they were able to foresee the rise and fall of empires thousands of years in advance.
As with all good stories, power always comes with constraints. Accurate predictions were only possible given two conditions. First, the population whose behaviors were to ...