Today’s Rapid Pace of Change Demands Modernized Leadership

Over the past decade, the pace of change has accelerated through technology, and we’ve developed a much deeper understanding of what drives human behaviors and business success. But these new realities have not been fully translated into how leaders run their companies.

For example:

Decision and planning cycles have been established based on limited data availability, but access to data has dramatically improved.
Employee goals have been based on an assumption that they should be self-serving, but research has shown that people (especially the younger generations) are increasingly motivated by more than their financial self-interest.
Shareholder wealth historically has been the sole objective, but we’ve realized that companies must factor in the value they create for many different constituencies, especially employees.

To drive relevant and sustainable change within their organizations, CEOs must help their executive leadership team (and their direct reports) overcome long-outdated leadership practices. Adopting these 8 shifts could serve a means to modernize your leadership.

1. Engage and Empower…instead of Command and Control. Leaders often act as though success or failure is based solely on decisions being made by their most senior people, and limit the number of decisions outside of that tight circle. Instead, leaders must focus on inspiring and informing employees to improve the myriad of ongoing decisions being made across their organizations.

“Leaders need to stop viewing customer insight as a set of market research projects, and treat it as part of the core organization to enable a continuous flow of customer-insightful decisions.

2. Learn and Adjust…instead of Strategize and Plan. The pace of change shortens the useful lifecycle of the analysis that leads to decisions. Leaders need to stop viewing customer insight as a set of market research projects, and treat it as part of the core organization to enable a continuous flow of customer-insightful decisions.

3. Detect and Disseminate…instead of Amass and Review. Leaders rely on a deep understanding of their business. But a point-in-time understanding of the past does not always provide a meaningful view of the future, or even how to compete in the present. Companies must tailor market insights for each part of the organization; providing the right information at the right time to fuel the decisions being made by employees with different roles.

4. Observe and Improve…instead of Measure and Track. Leaders often blindly follow the maxim that, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” While this can help simplify the management process, it also can push the organization to focus more on achieving short-term results, rather than long-term success. To overcome this problem, leaders should spend time understanding how things are getting done.

5. Purpose and Values…instead of Goals and Objectives. Management education trains leaders to define a set of objectives and cascade goals across their organization. That process may align employees, but it doesn’t necessarily drive them to do their best. People are intrinsically motivated to be part of something bigger than themselves, as they strive for a sense of meaning. Leaders must take the time to communicate the organization’s mission and its values.

6. Strengths and Appreciation…instead of Problems and Solutions. Leaders tend to be serial achievers, often ascending to their positions by delivering against a high set of personal standards. So it’s natural for them to highlight areas where employees across the company aren’t performing up to their high standards. People tend to perform at their best when their success is acknowledged. So leaders must consistently find ways to show their appreciation for employees’ strengths.

7. Culture and Behaviors…instead of Process and Projects. When leaders think about driving change, they often charter projects focused on changing processes. But companies are driven by human behaviors that transcend process design. Leaders need to invest more effort in the culture they create, which will shape how employees think and act.

8. Experience and Emotions…instead of Price and Features. Leaders often focus on the tangible components of their products and prices, missing key elements of how customers actually make decisions. Customer loyalty is most strongly driven by their emotional experience. Leaders must add customer emotion to their corporate vocabulary.

If you’re a corporate leader operating under outdated management assumptions, then it’s time to change your approach. While traditional management thinking may have succeeded in the past, future leaders will need to adapt to these 8 critical shifts to become a modernized leader.



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