7 Critical Leadership Traits for Insecure & Uncertain World
Businesses face an increasing rate of churn. Disruptive business models, evolving technologies, digitization, shorter product-life cycles are creating new challenges & opportunities. We are facing complexities, which are far outstripping our capacity to comprehend and to control. Companies need exceptional traits of leadership to survive & thrive in this hyper-dynamic environment..
This is leading to deep organizational impacts. Employees are becoming less trusting of the leaders. Also, mutual loyalty between enterprise and employees is tenuous at the best. Leadership-depth is shrinking. In the battle of survival, ethics and integrity are becoming first causalities.
Here are the 7 key entrepreneurial leadership qualities needed to make it happen.
Trait #1: Highly Acute Sensory System
Nature has given us senses to get the information from environment. A leader needs to be ‘Perceptive & Receptive’. His intelligence network needs to be on a real-time basis. He needs to interpret the inputs objectively and take decisions on it.
Remember- Strong senses are ten times more important than firm muscles. No point of having big biceps if you cannot see or hear. A company able to sense what is going to happen, will be most equipped to respond to it.
- Develop an extensive network of connections in the industry within your company.
- Read, Read and Read- Keep in touch with the latest
- Set-up ‘information and intelligence’ unit within your company/function which is scanning market, competition, regulators, industry associations and other entities
Leadership Trait #2: Agility and Flexibility
An agile leader commits to the cause, and not the method. He can fine-tune his moves, based on new inputs. Mental sharpness should come with the ability to respond quickly. An agile leader will establish ‘nimble-footed’ capabilities.
- Develop a culture of flexibility and agility. This means to train people at all levels that ‘uncertainty’ is part of the game, and instead of fearing it we should embrace. We should take a business like a sport, where strategy and execution go hand in hand.
- Develop ‘Flexible Capabilities’– This includes
- Highly configurable IT systems
- Flexible production lines
- Multiple channels
- Flexible Supply Chains and Logistics
- Configurable product design and prototyping tools
- Vendor matrix to support changes in supply
Trait #3: Fostering and Driving Innovation
What?- Here is why innovation is a big deal:
- 20-30 years back – If you were not innovating as an enterprise, you would not have grown
- (10 years back) If you were not innovating as an enterprise, you would have been dead
- NOW- If you do not innovate fast enough as an enterprise, you will be dead
- NEAR FUTURE and that points to you- If you do not innovate fast enough as an individual, you will be dead – though not literally
In today’s world, those who innovate fast; they survive and those who innovate faster than the competition; they thrive. Innovation is no longer a way of life that one can achieve only by encouragement and inspiration. We also need to be pursue it as a non-negotiable business objective.
A leader will, as his second nature- questions status quo. He will be restless to improve on what he has, he will think out of the box, he will learn from what the best in the industry are doing and he will listen to his customers. As a leader, he will build a culture of innovation in his team and also equip them to pursue continuous improvements.
- Learn about innovation- Innovation is an art and a science. It is also a well-established subject with its own tools & techniques.
- As discussed in the previous trait of agility and responsiveness, develop flexible capabilities
- Include innovation as part of the enterprise performance management, where you set-up some minimum benchmarks for implementing innovative ideas (which a customer is ready to pay for)
Leadership Trait #4: Leading Change
This leadership trait broadly talks about skills to managing not only yourself but also your team, your function, and the organization. Your real-value is in bringing the change within the organization. An organization is like a body, which keeps on rejuvenating itself, replacing old cells with new, and keeps adapting as per the new climate and conditions.
Similarly, as a leader, the mother trait is to be the Change-Leader. We need change in any organization because of hundreds of reasons. Some key reasons are-
- To respond to competition
- To reduce cost
- To automate processes
- To improve organizational culture
- To change the fundamental business model
- To change the operational model
- To increase productivity and quality
Change leadership trait needs the following qualities:
- Ability to embrace ambiguities and live with uncertainty
- Ability to influence and persuade people
- Remain closely engaged with the strategic changes happening in the company and support them.
- Ability to lead and work with cross-functional teams
- Ability to communicate highly effectively
- Learn the art and science of change management. There are a lot of tools and techniques available.
- Develop strong interpersonal relationships with people in all functions and levels.
- Develop interdependent connections with key people within the organization (give and take favors). Contrary to general opinion, helping each other out strengthens relationships.
- Promote Change Management Training and Coaching Sessions- and make people excited about ‘Change’
Trait #5: Enterprise Digitization
There trait of leadership is to do with technical & functional aspect of digitization. Here we are talking about ‘Digitization’ culture and mind-set. A leader will lead his team and enterprise in the digital world and bring in enormous benefits to customers, employees, and shareholders. The challenges of digitization are immense. ‘Digital leadership’ will involve:
- Understanding digitization and what it means for the company, its products, customers, employees, and vendors. A good leader will cut through the clutter and can sort out top priority digital initiatives.
- Appreciating Technology: A good leader will be highly comfortable and embrace information technology. He will not resist trying new gizmos and applications.
- Intermediary between tech and business: Leaders will speak both business and technology language. He will bring together diverse functions with a common goal.
- Digitization strategic thinking: You will reshape your strategy using the best of the digitization tools & techniques.
Here are some systematic actions that you can do. These actions assume that you still need to develop a digitization mind-set.
- Read a lot about digitization- Learn recent developments, digital applications & platforms, business models based on e-commerce and much more.
- Try out and train yourself on digital tools- Download apps and study them, see the demo of business systems relevant for you.
- Connect with Digitization experts- there are many professionals who are a few steps ahead of you. There are online forums and blogs which can provide you a lot of day-to-day applications.
- Use digitization in change management- Apply digitization in innovation and change-initiatives. Almost all transformations within an enterprise will need some level of digitization.
Leadership Trait #6: Killing your Business
A leader should be the most hard-nosed devil’s advocate to his own strategies. He will stay detached and take an aim look at his business plan.
KYB (Killing your business) is a unique strategy formation process, where your role-play as a competitor and work to destroy your business by exploiting its weakness. It’s like playing chess from both sides. Your leadership mindset has to be on the same wavelength.
As a leader, you will continuously do the fault-finding and identifying vulnerabilities. This will lead to strengthening your flanks. It’s also like companies hiring hackers to check their security systems. Here you are your own hacker and also the security firewall.
Leadership is best showed when you make it a habit. A habit is best developed when you follow a process. Here is the process you can follow:
- When you review your strategy every quarter (or more frequently), do systematic thinking on how you will kill your business.
- Hire an independent entity who can be your devil’s advocate.
- Train your team for not being complacent or have blind faith in management. Ask them to speak-up.
Trait #7: Build Entrepreneurial Culture & Skills
The most important task for a leader is not to do great things, but make their teams do great things. In this spirit, a leader has a non-negotiable responsibility to develop leaders and culture for a future-ready enterprise.
A leader will develop the following traits of leadership in his team:
- Multi-Skilled Employees managing diverse responsibilities
- Quick learning organization where people can pick new skills and apply them in a short span
- Employees are passionate about the cause and are not emotionally bound to their ideas
- Teams are not seeking 100% clarity, but embrace ambiguity and learn to live with it
- People co-ordinate like a single organism and can move to-gather to respond to any situation
- Be a role model. Show to your teams on how responsive, agile and flexible you are. They should see you letting go of your pet project and ideas for the sake of the company.
- Hire people with entrepreneurial attitudes using psychometrics and situation based evaluation techniques.
- Create career paths, compensation, and rewards scheme which promote a shareholder-focused mindset like treating company’s money like my money
- Lay down clear leadership expectations and give feedback on a real-time and periodic basis. For example, if an employee takes an initiative on implementing a cost-saving idea- give him an immediate public pat on the back.
Even in the traditional era of business, leadership has been in short supply. In this hyper-competitive business dynamics, leadership expectations are rising and outstanding leaders are becoming a highly scarce commodity. If individuals and enterprises can develop themselves for the need of the hour, they will be among the top 10% in their universe.