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Leading in a Disruptive World

The cover of WIRED magazine this past month read “How to Survive the Great Tech Panic of 2017”, touching on topics like robot overlords, self-driving cars, cyber warfare, comment trolls, cyber attacks, privacy breaches, Ransomware, text neck, nuke hacks and artificial intelligence.

It’s no doubt that this disruptive digital era has created a more complex business environment for brands as customers today are more engaged and connected. A company’s ability to remain agile, open and responsive in order to develop deeper ties to clients is being tested in unprecedented ways, impacting all industries and disciplines. Fortunately, these technologies have the potential to be growth enablers for businesses and leadership teams, helping serve clients and better interpret their needs more effectively.

There is a great deal of information written about the need for businesses to deploy technology or better product strategies to address the challenges in this digital age. I’d like to focus on the significance of people- or leadership-building to help set the strategies for the digital age, particularly in the midst of disruption. Leadership teams have to embrace change and reorganize quickly as digital penetration grows. In a digital world being complacent is deadly for a business, but engaging employees with the right skills and information can help inject innovative energy into a company. Getting everyone involved is no longer optional– it requires the same rigor and discipline with which we tackle operational transformation.

Today’s business models require leaders who are able to inspire for positive and sustainable change.

This disruptive era calls for decision-makers who are versatile, able to challenge the status quo and make changes. To successfully transform businesses for the new digital world, organizations must encourage an uncommon role model leadership approach. A continuous transfer of knowledge can give rise to new leaders across the company. Corporate leaders who can best teach and manage the people resources who help shape their businesses are able to break through the barriers that prevent others from developing the necessary leadership skills that can respond to market changes in real time. Consider the success of Plato, the startup that connects programmers and engineers with mentors from companies like Amazon, Facebook and Lyft, and just received $3.3M in funding by big names like Slack, Zoom, FundersClub and others. The idea is that an engineer’s education is focused heavily on hard skills around programming and systems design. The rest has to be learned. And for programmers-turned-leaders, it’s often the soft skills, like management and leadership, that need the most attention.

Promote the development of a new culture of radical leaders across business units and functions who are able to adapt and capture the benefits.

The future of business is no longer predictable, requiring greater insight and preparedness as disruptions will undoubtedly continue to change the way we do business and live. Likewise, disruption has the potential to dramatically improve our organizations. But to succeed in this new environment requires an “all-hands” strategy and introspection. To be successful, companies must allow for an environment and mindset of creativity through all ranks across their organizations starting with senior leaders as the role models. Over the past decade, we have seen initiatives by companies to transform their organizations in order to keep up and to find new opportunities to generate value in their fields. It’s not surprising that many organizations have recreated the role of the Chief Data Officer (CDO) to establish a better understanding of the market trends in technology and their customers’ behaviors. Companies that develop a strategy for succeeding in the digital economy by leveraging their internal people assets are able to respond more quickly to market opportunities.

The stakes are getting higher. A significant competitive advantage requires the contribution of every employee.

In this fast-moving world, corporate leaders need to employ new disciplines to help them respond faster to competitive pressures. The role of the leadership team gets more critical in this new thriving environment, as it calls for the involvement of every team member to become more engaged and creative to help their organizations on their digital trajectories.

By adopting a curious mindset, we are able to best transform our own organization, creating new ways of working together while providing leadership that can strengthen our capabilities and organizational performance to benefit our clients and partners, and ultimately to establish the long-term conditions to compete successfully in the digital world.

“It’s about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment & helping to find a way to innovate.”-Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO

The corporate leadership approach takes time and presents some complexity and risk, but equipping the entire organization to address the technological challenges posed by external digital disruption is very worthwhile.

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