In changing times, questions of the future of leadership and management seem to be at the top of the list. Inspired by the latest edition of the Harvard Business Reviewa, a special issue dedicated to “Managing in the New World,” I have begun exploring questions of leadership and management more thoroughly. In the process I stumbled upon the story of Paul Fireman, an individual whose accomplishments prove him to be what I call an Englightened Leader.
Paul Fireman was looking for a business opportunity. It was 1979 when he discovered a product that intrigued him and that had enormous potential: a handmade track and field show. At that time, Reebok was making 400 pairs a year. Fireman bought Reebok out in 1984.
But shortly after, the company slid towards bankruptcy. Fireman borrowed $75,000 and redesigned the company. Just years later, Reebok had won 43% of market share, business doubling every six months, and surpassing Nike in 1987.
Not long after, Fireman left Reebok in the hands of professional managers. The result was that the empire that Fireman created began to crumble. But Fireman was able to “put the bounce back in Reebok.” Guided by a new vision of leadership, a sense of the need to involve others in the company at various levels and to empower employees with accountability and ownership, Fireman rewrote the future of Reebok. In 2005 Reebok was sold to Adidas for $3.78 billion.
Take a look around and you will see that the world has transformed. The rise of instant communication technologies made possible through use of the internet, such as email, texting and IM, sites like YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have transformed the world. People are more informed and more sceptical than ever and they trust corporations less and less. People are more connected and more empowered that ever before. A customer’s experience with your business can be on Youtube and broadcast to millions across the planet in just seconds. Traditional marketing and advertising methods no longer work – today marketing has to be interactive, experiential and brilliantly innovative.
The composition of the workforce has dramatically changed. Generation Y is eagerly moving up the professional ranks bringing along the search for instant gratification and a sense of entitlement. They have high expectations from the workplace and want to make their jobs fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace. Gen Y wants more: more feedback, more responsibility, more involvement desire to make a difference.
Juxtaposed to them are the Baby boomers, the largest growing segment of the workforce. Many refuse to retire or businesses want to delay retirement. Their knowledge and expertise is needed to keep companies alive, but can they adapt to the rapidly changing economy? How will business deal with the generation gap between boomers and Gen Y?
Add the recession- the worst global recession since World War II. Businesses around the world have disappeared from the landscape, hundreds of thousands have lost jobs and millions have been lost in investments and revenues. As we emerge from the economic downturn, the only certainty is that there will be no return to normalcy. In the post-crisis world there will be what the Harvard Business Review has called “a restructuring of the economic order.” The world of business will be redefined and redesigned. The economy will be reconceived and reinvented and in the process, our lives will continue to transform.
The only constant in this world is change. To survive the rough waters ahead, organizations will have to adapt. But to thrive, they will have to do much more. The altered business landscape will leave both consumers and employees behaving differently, and organizations will have to follow suit. In a world where what once worked is now proven to fail and what was once proven to fail may be the only thing that works, what will make the difference between companies that perform and those that plummet?
In the new economic order consumers and employees behave differently and organizations will have to adapt, adjust and transform. To survive and to thrive, organizations will have to reinvent themselves and to take on the challenge, a new model of leadership will be required.
The new future of organizations rests in the hands of leaders, but the skills of leaders won’t be sufficient to handle the challenges of this new economic order. The leaders of the future will need far more than leadership skills. The leaders in the new world will require the power to rewrite the future of a group, company or perhaps even a country. In the future, a leader will be one who inspires, awakens and empowers, one who can win the hearts of employees, stakeholders and clients. Leaders will not only have to lead, but they will have to lead others to greatness.
In the past, leaders were leaders because they had risen up the ranks and earned the right to direct others. Their job was to guide and direct employees, to establish policies and procedures and have them followed. In the new world, seniority won’t be enough. To lead in the future, leaders will need to empower others to participate and share in decision making and in creating the organization’s future. The new model of leadership will be one that has everyone talking, giving ideas, suggestions, proposals and sharing concerns. Creating a vision and trying to get buy-in will be a thing of the past as leaders empower other will the power of ownership and authorship. Leader in the future will create and strengthen communities that work together to invent futures that didn’t previously exist.
What is it that makes a Barak Obama, a Winston Churchill, a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Mahatma Ghandi? “Cicero talks, and people marvel; Ceasar talks and people march,” said Warren Bennis, a pioneer in the field of Leadership Studies. In The Three Laws of Performance; Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life, a groundbreaking work that reveals powerful principles for leadership in a changing world, the authors place the above quote to demonstrate the most powerful tool of a leader: language. Leaders of the future will be masters of language. Like the Obamas, Churchills and Ghandis of our world, their words will move others to action. When they speak, they will touch others, transform their perceptions and guide listeners to living a someday future in the now.
Transforming an organization begins from the top down. To have a self-actualizing organization first and foremost requires self-actualizing leaders. The leadership of the future will need to be what I call Enlightened Leadership. Guided by values such as integrity, authenticity, contribution and a deeper understanding of human behaviour, organizations will move beyond simply aiming to profit. To survive in the new future, organizations will require leaders that lead them to contributing to society on a deeper level, helping employees be their best and tap into their potential. Since employees want more, leaders will have to be more.
Emotional, social and ecological intelligence will outrank technical skills and education as the new leadership emerges. New ways of thinking will lead corporations, companies and governments into the new future. Think in the ways of the past and your organization will fall behind. Move to the future and if you write a future worth living, people will follow.
How can the leaders of the future produce extraordinary results when faced with what is seemingly impossible? To meet the challenge, Enlightened Leadership is the only way.
Attend The Empowered Entrepreneur Event July 14th in Montreal to hear my presentation, The Instruction Manual for the Entrepreneur’s Mind. Visit www.e2connect.net for details and tickets.