Leadership Excellence for the Digital Age – LogiSYM January/February 2018
Leadership at the helm of progressive organizations is becoming increasingly difficult. The lure of efficiency-driven technology, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), significantly impacting the corporate landscape is a major challenge. Innovation is being seen as the key to relevance and survival in the Digital age, rather than, as an afterthought for assuring business competitiveness. The rules for running successful enterprises are being rewritten as old theories and established practices consistently fail to justify the rise of ambitious startups in dismantling the titans of industry. Consequently, corporate concerns are frantically searching for the elixir to attain/sustain leadership excellence. To accommodate the Digital age and to ensure that promising possibilities are converted into gainful opportunities in a timely and effective manner.
I this article we share 10 tips for moving purposefully and robustly in the respective direction:
Tip # 1
Being a visionary isn’t enough; be a futurist
‘We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost’, were the insightful remarks uttered by the then CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop, at the press conference for announcing the respective acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft. Nokia achieved the vision of being the global leader. However, it could not capitalize on the future of Digital communication, due to its excessive inward focus. The alternative was to embrace the vast openness of an evolving ecosystem that opened wider horizons for its competitors to delight customers. The new norm of a platform-based hand-held devices, which was pioneered by Apple.
Tip # 2
Invest in ‘open’ and ‘flexible’ talent management systems that allow ‘breathing space’ for ‘free thinkers’ and ‘trendsetters’
Conventional talent management systems are designed to be directional, disciplinary and dedicated. However, the Digital age mandates timely and astute innovation which requires the magnanimity of enterprising experimentation. This beckons ‘trendsetters’ and ‘free-thinkers’ who are allowed to stretch the boundaries of ‘acceptable norms’ in converting possibilities into opportunities. Some progressive organizations have developed separate functional entities to accommodate such initiatives that are not aligned with the customary running of the organization.
Be welcoming of the increasingly ‘sensitized’ and ‘connected’ world
The world has been steadily shrinking in terms of rapid communication, knowledge-transfer and wide connectivity. Every internet-savvy person has a stake in the global context due to the extensive diffusion that has brought relevance to isolated/marginalized communities and opened organizations to the glaring spotlight of corporate accountability from multiple perspectives, e.g., United Airlines being humbled by a customer who made a video of his predicament ‘United Breaks Guitars’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo). Therefore, organizations with an eye on thriving in the future are well-advised to proactively embrace the consequences of their actions in a more accommodating and responsible manner.
Don’t undermine innovation with technology by marginalizing the ‘human factor’
Technology is highly addictive. The promise of problem-solving and comfort, especially, when aligned with customer needs and expectations. However, within the corporate realm, a key mistake is in when adopting and adapting to technology, is the neglect of innovation or simply tying it with technology for meaning the same thing. Innovation is a cardinal ‘humanistic’ concept that refers to astute application of human ingenuity, whereas, Technology is a consequential ‘mechanistic’ tool that enables the efficient accomplishment of targeted tasks/assignments/responsibilities. Keeping the ‘human factor’ in prime position while charting the course of a prosperous future in the Digital age ensures internal harmonization in congruence with the optimal technological solutions.
Ingrain ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ as a core part of the organizational culture and instill Confidence Boosting Measures (CBMs) to drive fear out of the workplace
Consistently progressive, suitably paced and reliably profitable growth in the Digital age is increasingly dependent upon the richness of the Diversity & Inclusion factor in the corporate domain. A receptive organizational culture buoyed by ‘core values’ and complemented by astute talent management strategies can go a long way in benefiting from the ‘simmering’ talent, often unnoticed in organizations, for achieving/sustaining a competitive while ensuring a reign of unabated positivity in the workplace that incentivizes a sense of belonging and engagement for those yearning to unleash their unexplored potential.
Make sure that succession planning and management is impartial and transparent
Established leadership theories and vibrant management practices of the past are being relentlessly tested in an era where profitability is no longer a guarantee of sustainability and huge conglomerates are constantly looking over their shoulders with nervous anticipation of becoming irrelevant from ambitious startups. The future of progressive organizations in the Digital age, more than ever, hinges upon corporate leaders assuming the mantle of enlightened statesmanship, rather than, clinging to the prevalent status-quo of regressive politicking.
Cultivate High-Commitment Employees (HICOs), rather than, High-Potential Employees (HIPOs)
The HIPO approach, extrinsically-driven assessment, has been frequently attributed to eroding the morale of diligent employees and incentivizing the ‘cannibalization’ of ‘Peer Careers’ to secure progressive career advancement. It is more prudent to cultivate HICOs (https://www.peoplematters.in/article/leadership-development/from-hipos-to-hicos-a-new-evolved-approach-13384), intrinsically-driven employees, who are inherently engaged and very hard to poach by opportunistic competitors.
Inculcate mentorship as a mandatory element of senior management’s performance appraisal
The significance of having a good mentor cannot be overstated. This will develop talent as it lays the solid groundwork needed for keeping ‘potential successors’. This is to focus and galvanize them towards maximizing their value-addition for the organization while carving an admirable career for themselves. It is therefore imperative that senior management be mobilized for the mentor-mentee network. The level of success in such initiatives gauged as an essential element of their performance appraisal.
Convert ‘Aspirational’ employee engagement into ‘Inspirational’ employee engagement
Most progressive organizations are tending to ‘require’ employee engagement. This is a more pro-active approach versus an expectation of a natural offshoot from the enterprise culture and values. This has the downside of becoming a job specification. Which could bring ‘shrewd actors’ into play who are enticed by the incentive-driven external motivation of gaining associated rewards and recognition. Consequently, the ‘glamorization’ of employee engagement often eclipses the ‘voluntary initiatives’ of the ‘truly engaged’ employees. Therefore, an inspiration-based approach is generally a more enduring option than an aspiration-based approach for assuring ‘Sustainable Employee Engagement’ (https://www.peoplematters.in/article/performance-management/engagement-uninterrupted-achieving-sustainable-employee-engagement-13253).
Befriend ‘Failures’ for learning and embrace ‘Successes’ with caution
Organizations that have the humility and astuteness to learn well from their missteps are the ones with the foresight for maximizing the probability of success. A few years back, the trusted business model of software licensing was stagnating at Microsoft as Apple and Amazon made significant strides in cloud computing and mobile devices to embrace the emerging trends of the Digital age. However, Microsoft was able to self-reflect upon the changes that were needed to become relevant again and took the necessary steps, including, bringing in a new CEO with an extensive background in cloud computing. Now, it is again at the vanguard of current and emerging technologies, including, strategic investments in AI-enabled products and services.
Food for Thought
The aforementioned tips have been provided to open an insightful window into the verdant expanse of innovative thinking and astute application that refreshingly caters to the two critical competencies needed for organizations/professionals to stay relevant in the ubiquitous Digital future, i.e.:
1. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable
(refers to effectively embracing foreseeable changes/unanticipated scenarios/disruptive chaos)
2. Being uncomfortable with being comfortable
(refers to effectively overcoming intoxicating complacency from dominant market positions/stakeholder contentment/goal attainment)