Learn to Listen, Learn to Lead
They say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a message that some might be tempted to wield when faced with the suggestion that change is needed in the way that companies are led and managed. The truth is it’s already broken, shattered in fact.
External transformations in technology, geo-politics, demographics and culture are making unpredictability and change the new constants in all businesses. Corporations that once seemed untouchable are swiftly and irrevocably altered by disrupting upstarts unfazed by false steps or even complete failure. Age-old relationships are set for expiration. Rules are being changed with the swipe of a single leader’s pen and reverberating throughout business and politics. Workers aren’t retiring as early as they used to. And those just entering the workforce are arriving with a whole new suite of expectations – from a voice and a role in decision-making to a deep purpose aligned to their own values.
The days of command-and-control and imperial CEOs, such as the long-retired Jack Welch of General Electric fame, are over. Going forward then, how can leaders ensure they will be ready to drive change, meet the challenges of the ever-faster pace of business, attract and hold on to star talent while continuing to excel financially?
It’s a complex picture that needs to be looked at through a different lens. So how will leaders win?
The leaders of the future will need to flatten management structures to enable faster decision-making. Decisions need to be made by the people who will be most affected by them. More people need to be brought to the table: input from customers, suppliers, and stakeholders must be heard and acted upon. The goal isn’t just to make a few employees throughout the company feel involved, but to tap into the power of a diverse workforce, customers and the extended supply chain to generate new ideas, new ways of working and new products.
Companies and leaders need to accept that traditional thinking and the traditional ways of working will not work in the future. Success will be driven by a different mindset. A mindset committed to listening to all. A mindset that wants to drive change, not just manage it – that continually asks, “What do we need to do differently? How can we break and rebuild better what we have already done?” A mindset that wants to act and act fast.