wanted poster

There are many successful, established businesses operating today.

But here’s the question:  Where have all the bold leaders gone?  

As part of an overall strategic plan, leaders should be creating, embracing and driving exciting, radical, ground-breaking, awe-inspiring strategies, wrapped around genuine market innovation and industry progressive business models.

Why ask the question?

Few people are in any doubt that the developed world is well into the information revolution: driven by digital, mobile and social technology.  Yet it seems, few corporations are effectively embracing its potential for ground breaking innovation.  Instead, relying on the same old & faithful (until now) strategic planning formulas and short term business plan tweaks, resulting in sales gimmicks, IT upgrades and a product extension or two.  At best, there might be a mobile customer app or two, some cloud functionality associated with a program for digitising paper files and drafting of a BYOD policy.

It begs this question:  Will the successful businesses of today, be gone tomorrow?

Position ‘Vacant’

The role of leader taking their enterprise boldly into this new age remains ‘vacant’ in most companies.  Why are they allowing this pioneering opportunity to exercise bold leadership pass them by?  Do they think being a pioneer is all too much, or is their thinking just all too small?

But hold on, the executive leaders of our country’s businesses are smart, hard working and ambitious.  So what is the problem?

Here are 8 systemic conditions getting in the way:

  1. Boldness is not an objective.  Career executives are employed and well rewarded for successfully managing processes, people, plans & performance towards risk aversion.  They are not paid to be innovative risk takers.
  2. Boldness is presumed.  Executive teams are smart.  So they rely on their collective intelligence, record of industry success and the CIO, as ‘all they need to know’ when determining strategy.
  3. Boldness is missed, dismissed or reasoned away.  Executive group biases favour the status quo.  They work intensely within the limited context of their teams, businesses and industries.  And they are generally exposed to similar experiences.
  4. Boldness is not believable.  Reliance on the traditional business case, where resource allocation metrics favour improving the status quo over bold radical change.
  5. Boldness is a luxury.  So much time is dedicated to managing and improving on the status quo, with only time enough to glance up for a headlights view of the road ahead.  Little time is taken to appreciate how the changing landscape will impact on the terrain beyond.
  6. Boldness is lost in boxes.  Specialisation has lead to inefficiencies in organisational structure.  Silos and silos within silos, and interaction between them managed by process and protocol.  Little wonder why few are in a position to see outside their box.
  7. Boldness can wait.  Belief the business is too big to lose.  The notion that a business has time to wait until it sees a clear threat before acting is no longer valid.
  8. Boldness has been confined to the straight-jacket.  There is a distinct lack of vision and creativity in business today.  Every executive team has their vision statement.  But how many of them are truly ‘visionaries’?

Be Realistic

Now, to be clear, no one denies the reality that businesses need to be run well to service clients and satisfy shareholders today.  Quarterly and yearly results must be achieved.  But, do we focus our resources and effort 100% on today’s result at our peril?  What happens in the future when ‘today’s result’ begins to shrink, in absolute terms, because someone else has found a better, faster, cheaper way to met your customers needs?

The technology revolution is undoubted and it is fundamentally changing how we act, think, communicate and work.  Significant structural transformation is happening in every industry across the globe.  Many established players have lost or will lose the initiative, with little potential to win it back (e.g., Fairfax, Borders, David Jones).  The window of opportunity is closing.

We (your employees and I) want and need leadership that is bold and courageous (but we don’t mean frivolous and irresponsible!) and crafting radical strategy.

Wanted:  Bold Leaders with Radical Strategy

How can leaders be more bold?  How can strategy become more radical?

Here are a few questions to ponder.

  • What can you be doing to ensure a quality 10% of your business’ resources is allocated to generating new activities?
  • How can you free this 10% from standard operational bureaucratic procedure and silo protocols?
  • How can risk of financial and reputational failure be managed differently?
  • How can you restructure to think like a smaller, more nimble business?
  • How can creative new ideas, innovation and quarantined risk taking be built into your culture?
  • Where can new ideas and different perspectives regularly come from?
  • Where will your business find new expertise that spans multiple disciplines and areas of competence?

Finally, are you and your team actually ready to be bold and open to embracing radical strategy … really?

What else?

Most smart, time poor travellers would not go exploring for opportunity in a new culture (like West China) or embark on a new experience (like climbing Mt Everest) without at least reference to an experienced guide. You might eventually find a way, you will miss most of the best parts of the journey and you could end up in a whole lot of trouble.  Get a guide and a team of Sherpas.

Even if your whole executive team said “Don’t worry, we’ll come along and help”.  You wouldn’t really try without a guide… would you?

by Michael Lin
Chief Strategist & Business Model Architect, Leadership Resources Consulting Group.