Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty
In honor of the New Year and looking ahead to the challenges that face us in 2013, Gadi Lesin, President and CEO of Strauss Group, talks about leadership in an age of uncertainty and change, and shares some tips on management.
Our reality has changed and keeps changing swiftly all the time. While 500 years ago the graph of changing trends presented a constant but slight incline, the change we have seen over the past 20 years in all areas of life is exponential.
The reason for this is the fact that progress, globalization, “reduced global distances” and digitization through advanced technologies and new media have made everything accessible and available and the rate of change is increasing.
So how does this affect us both as people and as managers in the business environment?
Prophets off target.
In the past few years we have seen the consistent appearance of experts in various fields, whose job and hopes are pinned on “projecting the future” – the examination of scenarios expected in the foreseeable and far future. However, when tested in the real world, all these predictions prove to be way off target as reality surpasses any imagination, or as the case may be here, any vision.
It would be wrong to say that these brilliant researchers don’t do a good job, because given the constant changes and the rapid pace at which things happen, it is very difficult to predict the future. These rapid transformations require leaders of organizations to adopt diverse competencies, different to those they were accustomed to until today.
From IQ to EQ. The days when IQ level served as a managerial-potential index are long gone. Good leadership today involves listening, sensitivity, understanding consumers, employees and people, and primarily having the ability to engage in a dialogue with them. These skills become much more significant when it comes to a global company operating in various countries that have a wide range of cultures, people, languages and habits.
Management under the concept of diversity and inclusion. We all find it easier to connect with people who resemble us. But working with people who are different in many aspects – worldviews, education, language, culture, age and gender – is quite a challenge. It is, therefore, important in our new global age that managers and employees understand and internalize the importance of inclusion and containment.
Separating the wheat from the chaff. Francis Bacon coined the immortal phrase “Knowledge is power”. A statement that emphasizes the importance and necessity of information, particularly in the days which saw the start of the scientific revolution, when knowledge began to come out of church cellars that allowed entry to just a few.
Knowledge and information as raw materials remain, of course, just as important in our era as well, but separating the significant from the insignificant becomes much harder to do in a world where typing one word in Google yields hundreds of thousands of results.
This hard work doesn’t skip over managers in organizations that are constantly inundated with information and should make decisions based on correct and accurate mapping of the information at hand.
Entrepreneurship and innovation. A global world grants significant advantage to giant companies at the expense of medium and small ones – primarily in the international arena. This means that any company which does not fall under the “giant company” category must develop innovative solutions with breakthrough creativity, in order to sustain its existence.
It’s all about people. Leadership begins and ends with people. They are the ones who make up the organization and create its corporate culture. In an era with rapid population growth, there is always a shortage of people with very high capabilities. The greatest challenge of contemporary leadership is to trace these “pinnacles”, collect the talents and link them to a big dream through which they can realize their potential.
Individuals with ideals. People today are looking for a story that goes deeper and far beyond their day-to-day work. It is important for them to connect to the company’s values and know that the organization in which they work does things that are not only related to profit-making. The new reality, therefore, requires organizations to provide employees with this added value.
Those who are afraid of mistakes will make a mistake in a bad case, and in a worst case will do nothing at all. It is important to maintain the right balance between tenacity and strive for purpose, and the ability to develop flexibility
Contending with challenges
The world in which we live entails plenty of challenges, and plenty more to come, but what about solutions or tools for coping with the situation?
Team and cooperation. First and foremost, it is important that managers gather talented people on their side, people who can influence and make a difference. The age of one glamorous leader at the top is over. Today's leadership is based on cooperation and measured on the ability to work in a team and conduct joint thinking.
Looking to the future. We must constantly think about the distant future, while simultaneously translating the vision into practical activities at present and in the foreseeable future. In order to find a balance within this polarity, we must plan scenarios, responses and flexible, relevant plans, and create a spectrum of alternatives based on rational thinking and healthy intuition.
Never fear mistakes. Those who are afraid of mistakes will make a mistake in a bad case, and in a worst case will do nothing at all. It is important to maintain the right balance between tenacity and strive for purpose, and the ability to develop flexibility. It is very similar to a navigation system – you define your destination, but sometimes encounter problems and changes along the way. So the route may change, but the destination you strive to reach remains the same.
Leadership, too, often entails places of uncertainty, failures and crises, and it's one of my favorite challenges because it requires me to think about the vision and strategy and "re-calculate route" every once in a while.
Values. It is important to believe in what you do. Not as a phrase, but genuinely recognize that leadership facilitates influence and value-driven fulfillment. To me, making our company better for consumers and employees is a top priority and a major motivator in my day-to-day work.
Optimism and Courage. Pessimistic or fearful people have the most difficult time in our chaotic world that changes at a meteoric pace. On the one hand, one cannot be driven by fear of failure - we all fail sometimes – and on the other hand, those motivated by optimism-backed courage can reach far and beyond. Those who dare- fulfill.
Fortunately, I had the privilege of growing within a company that grows faster than my aspirations. A company that challenges my goals and objectives, and whose pyramid keeps going up. Such companies, that grow, develop and advance all the time, provide a true constant challenge to managers who love, by nature, to mark goals.
Wishing all of us a challenging year with productive and positive productivity.