It is important for us as leaders to realise that we are the custodians of the future. First and foremost, the future of our organisations, but also of our industries, our countries and the world. This is why setting a consistent and sustainable example is so desperately needed. In fact, in such a volatile macro landscape, it could be the answer to shifting from being the victim to being the victor.
It is critical that you continuously empower yourself to not only be informed, but to be influential. A leader has to provide stability in the midst of uncertainty. Firstly, by shifting the focus to the opportunity instead of the challenge and secondly by leveraging your knowledge, experience and connections to position your business favourably. However, most importantly, you have to take your team along on the journey.
Adapting to change and eventually growing to stay abreast of change, starts with attitude, is sustained by continual assessment and succeeds with purposeful action.
The key thing here is realising that your attitude should become our attitude. Your passion and optimism will only reap rewards if everyone is feeling it. Leaders should think innovatively rather than negatively, and foster an environment in which innovation, collaboration and comradery can thrive. You need to display the humility it takes to learn from and collaborate with anyone, including the entry-level employee and even a competitor when necessary.
Having the character it takes to put ego aside and collaborate, is now more important than ever before. As pointed out by Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré (Ret.), who led the U.S. military’s response to numerous crisis situations: “Command and control will not serve the future.” It does not even work for military officers. He adds that sharing control over decision-making is often the only way “to get things done in the new normal”.
If things are going well, it is your responsibility to ensure that the team doesn’t get comfortable but still makes the most of opportunities. When things are not going so well, it is incumbent on you to drive the necessary conversations and actions to overcome challenges.
Displaying and fostering the right attitude, enables receiving the feedback and information you need to position your business effectively. Even though leaders need to compromise wisely, we should guard against compromising unconsciously. Being mindful of what is happening in your organisation, your industry, your country and the world, and how this could affect your business goals, is vital for remaining relevant and building sustainability for the organisation. This means ensuring that your internal and external feedback channels are wide open to receive and consider the views and input of others.
Consider this powerful example of seeking divergent views to find the best possible solution:
When South African Breweries faced some labour relations challenges they invited three highly respected labour relations experts, known for their divergent views, to an open discussion. These three experts built their case, challenged each other’s thinking and answered the executives’ questions. The purpose was not to reach agreements or consensus, it was to open up the debate as wide and as deep as possible. This fostered new connections and paved the way for innovative solutions.
However, determining the strategy is about much more than gathering the information. It is about resilience, tenacity and adaptability. You must not only endeavour to foresee the challenges, you must be able to effectively influence the internal and external environment to the business’s advantage.
A good example of adapting to current trends is Domino’s Pizza which launched the first online ordering platform of its kind in South Africa in October 2015. Their online Pizza Builder, Domino’s Tracker and personal profile that links your name to your order number, effectively addresses the modern customer’s need for convenience, control and personalisation.
They also link this to their overarching purpose in a very impactful way:
“Our innovations simply help us get better at what we love to do most: deliver great pizza to your door, efficiently and enthusiastically!”
In the challenging business environment of today, leaders have to do more than just give direction, they have to instil purpose with the right attitude, assessment and action. Finding meaning in what we do is the one thing that can help an individual, a team and ultimately an organisation look beyond the challenges to see the opportunity thus being the victor rather than the victim.
Brian Eagar is the founder and CEO of TowerStone, a leadership centre.