In the age of transformation, executives are forcedÂ to adapt to a new way of working.
By Michael Switow
In an age of disruption, what types of leaders are neededÂ to drive organisational success?
âItâs no longer good enough to be agile,â explains KornÂ Ferryâs Associate Client Partner Tim Wiseman. âYouÂ canât just respond. You have to get in front. What weâveÂ used in the past to measure what âgoodâ looks like forÂ leadership models is not going to get us to the future.â
Instead, Wiseman says the best leaders are people whoÂ âget in front and break things before their competitionÂ breaks them.â
This idea is at the core of a new model from the KornÂ Ferry Institute (KFI) called âThe Self-Disruptive Leader.âÂ KFI has coined the acronym ADAPT to describe fiveÂ characteristics that such leaders need to succeed:
- Anticipate rather than wait for disruption.
- Demonstrate Drive and the ability to energize peopleÂ who are constantly being asked to come up with newÂ ways to do things.
- Accelerate the flow of information and businessÂ outcomes.
- Partner and pool resources when they donât have soleÂ ownership in non-hierarchical organisations.
- Secure peopleâs Trust to achieve shared objectives.
âDisruption is here to stay. The innovation cycle isÂ shortening. The tolerance for risk is increasing,â explainsÂ Wiseman, who has been a consultant since the 1990sÂ and has focused on leadership development for the pastÂ 15 years, most recently in Hong Kong. âThis innovationÂ thing is not new to leaders, but how the innovation takesÂ place is going to be the important part.â
A key difference between older success mindsets andÂ this newer paradigm is that products and services areÂ continually being improved. Companies do not aim forÂ perfection right out of the gate. Instead of the mantraÂ âfailure is not an option,â companies release newÂ product iterations as team leaders constantly âbuild,Â break, and rebuild.â
This framework was based on a survey of futuristÂ literature and skills required for success, and the dataÂ from 150,000 senior leadership assessments. The resultsÂ were mapped out with existing surveys and databasesÂ like the Global Innovation Index, Worldâs Most AdmiredÂ Companies, and Fastest Growing Companies. The resultsÂ showed that only 15 per cent of business leaders globallyÂ fit their disruptive model.
âThis leaves a global shortfall of 85 per cent of leadersÂ who urgently need to develop new future-ready skillsÂ to succeed in disruptive times,â KFI notes in its survey.Â âOn the bright side, this does mean that thereâs a coreÂ of leaders in todayâs market that already possess theÂ skills needed in the future. Future-ready leaders arenât aÂ distant ideal but a group that is here now, in many of ourÂ major companies, that can be used as a blueprint to helpÂ develop others with a similarly diverse skill set.â
Adapting in an age of disruption can sometimes meanÂ abandoning one business model for another.
One company that has done just that is Phillips. TheÂ organisation was once synonymous with light bulbs,Â but after touring innovation centres in Silicon Valley,Â it divested its manufacturing operations and beganÂ focusing instead on âLi-Fi,â light-emitted Wi-Fi. ItÂ now works with municipalities to design lightingÂ infrastructure and smart power networks. âTheyâre oneÂ of the few that actually did the pivot,â says Wiseman.
âAs a high-tech firm, you canât be business as usual or youÂ will die,â agrees Katie Ng, the head of human resourcesÂ at Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Hong Kong. TheÂ challenge, Ng argues, can be finding the right approachÂ to further innovation.
One technique to address this challenge can beÂ separating skills from mindsets. The skills or competenciesÂ associated with âdrive,â for example, include the abilityÂ to manage ambiguity, nimbleness, and situationalÂ adaptability. The comparable mindsets for drive areÂ composure, optimism, self-awareness, and empathy.
âBuilding skills takes some time, but building mindsetsÂ takes a bit more energy,â Wiseman concludes.