More than ever, we live in a connected world.  We have a global economy and global supply chains. Yet the complexity of our global economy makes it difficult to spot problems until they become truly large and unmanageable. 

Here’s an example: An unexpected shortage of semiconductors has caused supply chain issues across several seemingly unrelated industries. As technology leaders, we understand that all industries are now inextricably linked and interrelated. That’s the nature of our modern digital world.

But there are still plenty of folks out there who don’t see the connections. Part of our role, increasingly, is connecting the dots and explaining why and how all of these phenomena are related.

An article published recently in Wired captures this nicely: “You may have noticed that it's difficult to get ahold of new high-end graphics cards and game consoles these days. In large part, that's due to an ongoing global shortage affecting semiconductor foundries,” writes Jonathan M. Gitlin of Ars Technica. “As it turns out, the problem is even more pronounced in the auto industry. In fact, it's getting so bad that a number of OEMs, including Ford and General Motors, have had to go as far as idling shifts and even entire factories.”

As Gitlin observes, the problem is related to the coronavirus. At the beginning of the pandemic, the OEMs reduced their orders for the chips that have become vital components in all cars and trucks. But the pandemic also forced a change in people’s habits across the board, and suddenly everyone was spending much more time in front of their digital devices and video game consoles.

The automobile industry faces a good news/bad news situation: The good news is that people are buying cars again. The bad news is there aren’t enough chips to satisfy demand from the device makers and the carmakers.

Eventually, it will all get sorted out. But the pain is real, and the ripple effects will spread slowly across all of our industrial sectors. Explaining and managing these kinds of unexpected events and unintended consequences has become part of the modern technology leader’s portfolio of responsibilities.

To a far greater extent than ever before, the C-suite and the executive board will be looking to you for guidance and advice. The modern enterprise needs us to lean in and to provide truly courageous leadership in difficult times.