The urgent need for sophisticated leadership

Strategy + Business, 2020-07-31

What Impacts the World

  • ADAPT (5 global forces framework): asymmetry of wealth, disruption, age disparities, polarization, loss of trust.

  • The pandemic has accelerated these forces.

New Pressures on Leaders

  • Hard trade-offs: business as usual vs health, well-being, safety and financial viability.

  • Many want to go back to the office, which may be a wrong move in the light of the future.

  • Long-term planning is dead; short-term planning may be knee-jerk.

  • But leaders must project calmness and stability —> build upon reputation.

Six Paradoxes of Leadership

  1. Have confidence to project a clear strategy and humility to correct course and change.

  2. Take both bird’s eye and microscopic view on the business.

  3. Build up on the history but focus on innovation.

  4. Rely on people but embrace technology.

  5. Think globally and act locally.

  6. Negotiate multiple viewpoints while maintaining integrity.

Repair: Act Quickly and Intelligently

  • Humble heroes repair what’s broken, act confidently and adjust to the new facts.

  • Every move is under a harsh spotlight.

  • Irreversible decisions requiring courage.

  • Build on trust (i.e. you should’ve earned it first).

  • Strategic execution: understanding the environment, developing strategic alternatives based on new inputs (including rebuilding supply chains and having remote workforce).

  • Focus only on short term —> sacrifice the future and lose face (say, implementing redundancies).

  • Focus only on long term —> overstrategizing, losing momentum and have supply chains disrupted. And again, top-down approach doesn’t work.

  • Bottom-up improvisations on the fly and recognition of good initiatives. (ex: boutique clothing producers making face masks)

Rethink: Design the Present with the Future in Mind

Reconfigure: Organizing for the Future

  • People learn to be self-sufficient and resilient.

  • Firms learn to cater to their staff on a local basis. Learn to have plan B for critical supply chains.

  • The rise of nationalism, acceleration of polarization.

  • Must learn to express genuine care for local communities. (ex: Aviasales’s campaign “Travel, but sometime later”).

  • Leaders need to learn to influence a broader set of stakeholders and building essential levels of trust.