Brave New Leadership


Leadership does not happen in a vacuum – good leaders in one situation can be terrible leaders in another and different situations demand different leadership qualities from us. In this article, we look at how it is not only our qualities as leaders that are important; but also the fit between those qualities and the environment that we are in.

Managing your teams for sustainability

It’s partly a matter of communication and reassurance, but I suggest it has a dimension we don’t always consider – in strategy discussions do we look only to our own wisdom or that of our top colleagues and professional advisors, or do we take into account in an active and deliberate way the advice we can get from customers and political leaders? Or maybe great speakers, like Richard Jadick?


Environmental scanning is an essential part of any strategy development but a global economic shift is largely out of our control as organizations and individuals. What we can do is manage our teams. As we try to fix an uncertain future, how do we keep our teams motivated?


The more diverse perspectives you can get into your strategy process the more likely you are to come up with a range of possibilities that makes sense. Teams will be much more reassured by the actions you take to ensure this wide and diverse input into decision making because that will demonstrate that you are doing things in a way that takes political and economic uncertainties into account.


The future for business will rely on organizations being sustainable. Tomorrow’s Company, the business research organization, defines a sustainable company as one that, “pursues long-term success, understanding that it depends upon, and therefore must contribute to the health of the economy, the environment and society”.


Growth is likely to be generated from green industries and the challenge is going to be how we ensure a global level playing field so that the incentives are no longer perversely ensconced towards manufacturing those green technologies in China or the Middle East. Environmental and social controls in the global system are crucial – why does so much biotech industry developed at Universities like Cambridge end up being manufactured in China or Vietnam? Costs are lower, but why? Because there are no pension arrangements, there is no holiday leave, no health and safety, environmental or ethical safeguards. You can’t have a global system and expect the most advanced parts of the world to benefit if there are different rules for different parts of the globe.


One alternative is to build niche industries – very specialized businesses in a global sub-niche, too small in scale to bother taking it to China. Those industries rely on identifying high value, small volume production that can take place here and that is going to be a key means of restoring employment.


The future of human resources

Scientists are looking at the ethical and social consequences of what are known as ‘Smart Robots’ – these are not the next generation of robots that are coming, they are the next, or next, next generation. The idea of a Smart Robot is one that is able to continue to learn and improve itself, that can then produce smarter versions of itself. We are not there yet,   but theoretically, they are possible and they may be produced in the next 25 years or so. But what is going to hit us by 2012 is Intelligent Robots.


We’ve had robots from the ‘80s, for example in the automotive industry where they performed simple mechanics and threw out of employment a low-skilled, blue-collar workforce.


The new generation of Intelligent Robots will look like human beings, they will speak to you in several languages, joke with you, flirt with you and, in Japan, teachers are being substituted with robots in pilot form. They can detect when something is wrong and identify the defective part for replacement. Intelligent Robots have the potential to replace all security guards, receptionists and secretaries – and most doctors,  lawyers, and bankers. The speed with which they are deployed will depend on how quickly they are accepted. Initially, they will cost between £12,000 and £100,000 – not too astronomical!


So, starting in 2012 leaders may have to make the decision as we go into recruitment, do we recruit a person or do we recruit a robot? The principle going forward is going to be very straightforward – more and more we will need to recruit human beings who are smarter than their robot equivalents.


Three Core Competencies of the Future

The core competences of the future will not be those we are producing now, so unless we address this issue in our school systems the problem of unemployment will certainly increase. As confidence grows and we begin to think about expanding again, we must consider these three core competencies in the kind of people we are recruiting.


Finding and retaining customers

We are in a historically unprecedented situation where we are able to produce much more than the world needs of everything. In a world of over-production, the key becomes a market competition – if you want to survive you need to find and retain customers.


Managing the whole supply chain

As a result of the rise of technology, we will find industrial boundaries eliminated and the rise of mega-corporations will increase. How do we manage supply chains in these huge organizations? How do we ensure that our staff doesn’t operate as ‘sales prevention officers!’


Creativity and innovation

According to the late Peter Drucker, marketing is selling and promoting today’s products, while innovation is anticipating tomorrow’s needs today. Developing a culture of innovation will be an essential aspect of competition, attracting new customers and streamlining structures and processes.

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