There is no substitute for inspirational leadership, someone who:
- Takes people where they otherwise would not go;
- Employs the head, empowers the hand, engages the heart and enriches the spirit;
- Builds a great team;
- Creates tomorrow in the room today;
- Is skilled in orchestrating "change".
To those core attributes add resilience, digital savvy, coaching mastery and all that is implied by the word 'focus'.
Here the waters are somewhat muddied by a past body of work defined as "change management". Its origins lie in a time before digitalisation, before ongoing disruption, before today's blazing speed of change and before the need to continuously reinvent possibility. Still an overriding theme in many organisations and, no doubt, invaluable in the past, it is a body of work that needs to be revisited.
Push technology aside today at your peril. That is not to suggest - as many appear to do - that digitalisation/technology/AI, etc., are, on their own, a source of lasting competitive advantage. Culture is a dynamic system and technology an integral part of that system. Culture is the stage - technology one of the lead players. And sitting in the audience? The ever-vigilant customer.
The resilient nature of culture is that it is essentially a series of deeply enshrined habits. And changing a habit doesn't happen overnight. Culture will thus, especially in the short term, always have primacy. For that reason, launching new technology into a culture that doesn't fully support it is a pretty good way to destroy value. For example, although AI has the potential to move the business to a whole new level, implementation is lagging expectations.
In introducing breakthrough technology, organisations need to similarly start with a rich and compelling 'why'. For an intervention that will, literally and irrevocably, change their lives - higher productivity, faster response times and/or a greater understanding of who buys the company's product and/or service are, on their own, a tough sell to the typical employee. Motivation without meaning is change without commitment.
And what does a great 'why' sound like? A group of young executives in a bionics company were asked why they do what they do. They answered, "To make the wheelchair redundant". Where do I sign up?
None of this takes anything away from the value of a holistic template (model) - one that captures how all of the various elements of change come together. Indeed, the further you venture into the upper levels of management, the greater the degree to which learning how to learn comes to the fore. Provide that map but recognise that leaders must lead. Acknowledge that leaders, real leaders, do lead!
Insights from "Leadership: Moving Beyond The Crisis".
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