“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” – From “The Godfather.”
There are no straight lines to winning the future… some initiatives will hit the marks…others won’t.
While every organization’s culture is unique, the challenge we hear often from CEOs and Enterprise Leaders is how to balance and bend their decision cultures to be more pliable and “comfortable” with uncertainty while continuing to execute critical decisions at increasing speed in these uncertain times. All realize “common” leadership words such as servant leadership, continuous team learning and collaboration are meaningless without achieving tangible results.
Leadership cultures that continually imagine and aspire collaboratively are winning because they achieve results now with a culture of inertia of adjusting on the fly. Moreover, the successful commitment to an ongoing top grading to attract and retain executive talent. In today’s world, you can’t “digitize” and deliver value without the CEO’s commitment to continually evaluate and “test” the alignment of enterprise leadership talent to the challenges of enhancing valuation.
Even so, there continues to be “executive value overhang.” Though bonds of trust are essential among successful leadership teams, CEOs are realizing that the keys to winning now centers on moving faster and not being held back by vestiges of leaders’ past. Yet, it is commonplace for CEOs to assume that the past achievements of their key executives, however notable, will translate seamlessly to meet unforeseen challenges to adjust and deliver outcomes to win the future.
From our work advising CEOs on leadership recruitments and succession, clearly, we know that an executive’s track record (even if currently among a company’s executive team) is but one indicator of how she/he may succeed going forward. And, in this fast-changing world, past performance as a predictor of driving future value holds less sway…perhaps, than ever before. CEOs that assume that past performance is “The” holy grail of leadership selection, are accepting extraordinary risk.
Three Factors CEOs Should Consider in Aligning Priorities, Strategies with Leadership
Lead Your Leaders. Accept vulnerability as a norm while being extraordinarily clear about your values, how you view/define winning and why it’s a path to which you are committed… even with limited sight into the future. Moreover, communicate what it will take to win…scale, financial resources, technology and, most importantly, executive leadership.
Bend Your Cultural Curve. Establishing values that encourage challenging the status quo. Continually evaluate while adjusting and realigning your leadership and the discipline around decision-making. Be diligent and transparent about how your teams deal with unknowns. Work through discovery and innovation. Teach your team to embrace the future without fear… Benchmark continually and consistently.
Passivity Loses. Be diligent in defining granular leadership qualities that your team must possess to deliver today and going forward. Move beyond your comfort with your key executives, evaluating and judging whether each has the grit, agility, leap and therefore “the right” to win the trust of their teams in an era of “swans.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are no leadership “safe harbors” in our world of accelerating speed. Leaders who falter, when adjusting on the fly, simply aren’t good enough.
The most in-demand executives, regardless of track records of operational experience or functional excellence, have a keen sense of discovery and will lead teams to accomplish and contribute more than they believed possible. While delivering results, as future-focused beacons, these rare leaders embrace new perspectives/possibilities, while courageously, questioning current cultural icons.
Winning now means prioritizing the recruitment and retention of such leaders and committing to support these change-driven individuals as they challenge established norms and push back against organizational malaise and “not invented here.”
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