Changes in the direction, I’ve described in my last post, won’t happen in any organization with the “old type” leaders – Excel visionaries lacking empathy. The greatest and the most urgent challenge according to GPDF’2015 is the change of leadership mindset.
It won’t be easy. Ethics and morality, values and culture or empathy are for many executives the concepts from a very distant galaxy. Galaxy of a name: “Abstraction”, “Idealism” or “It must be a joke”. Or some boring terms from fifteenth chapter of “Ethics in business” handbook – the subject that during weekend meetings within MBA school was discussed always as the last one – so participants don’t remember a lot about it, as they had to rush to catch the plane / train / get home.
But my needles of nastiness are nothing in comparison to cannons drawn against MBA during the conference. Also by people that are responsible for leader education, such as Gianpiero Petriglieri from INSEAD. Why cannons?
Well maybe because of the fact that though the leadership development industry flourishes, there are more and more educated leaders and MBA graduates each year, we are facing now possibly the largest leadership crisis ever.
According to Petriglieri:
MBA – destroys social sensitivity. MBA – dehumanizes management. MBA – detaches executives from reality. MBA – teaches to treat ethics in business as one of the subjects (and as such that can be easily skipped), not as an immanent feature of each business. MBA – does not teach how to cope with unpredictability and irrationality.
No wonder that executives feel uncomfortable, when they are reminded about values or morality. And, as last CIPD research shows – they admit of course that long-term interests of people, organizations and society justifies sacrifices in the short-term (70%), but in reality they practically do not apply this principle in the common practice (23%).
And still. There is no other way. Nor MBA diploma or even well-played charisma, or past successes will help when conditions on the market are changing instantly and customers have very diverse expectations. Often irrational – but hey, that’s how people are.
Additionally, executives need people that will be up to date with the customer and the market and will react adequately, even to the most bizarre changes. In order for this to happen, these people require certain amount of autonomy and energy, and also understand the meaning of their actions.
Can this meaning be achieved with shabby customer service standards? No.
Can this autonomy be reached with constant monitoring of employee actions? No.
Can this energy be obtained with bribing or as they call it: benefits and bonuses? Absolutely no.
Has the world turned upside down? On the contrary, the world is going back to normal. And finally creates opportunities for executives to become those who they were supposed to be in the first place – leaders.
So, what are their tasks then? Here are some conclusions from GPDF:
- Providing continuity in unstable times by building stable culture and values – standing on their guard, but also embodying them
- Providing meaning, reminding everybody about the mission of company’s existence
- Standing at the side of humanity, not the technology – meaning not: adjusting people to software and computers, but the other way round. As Tom Davenport said: CEOs don’t need to be on the robots’ side. The robots are doing perfectly well on their own.
- Disrupting on purpose organization there where stiffness makes it impossible to react in a flexible way – undermining status quo, initiating self-managing teams
- Setting the organization for discovering and experimenting, not preserving – a little tip: immediately throwing away from company’s vocab such phrases as: – “we can’t do it”, “who has done it already?”, “we’ve done it so far and we were successful, so why should we change?”
And what about those that won’t follow this direction? That will still dance their waltzes on Titanic?
There is a couple of possible scenarios:
- The most spectacular one – the outbreak of scandal similar to VW or Deutsche Bank, financial crisis, image crisis and probably a jail for some, as it is strongly highlighted in the US, UK or Germany
- The most probable one – organization lead by such leader will move increasingly with a grace of a rusty jalopy, its performance will be getting poorer and poorer, cutting costs and firing next groups of employees will be giving respite for shorter and shorter amounts of time. In the meantime, leader will get an opportunity to develop his career somewhere else in the corporation, he will be replaced by the other, but very similar one (probably a graduate of the same business school), organization will be slowly moving down in industry rank, will be losing (very slowly or very quickly – depends whether some Uber will pop out), market share, and its greatness will be found only on pages of the handbook written by some out-of-time leaders, certainly not on the pages of the current press.
- The most painful on individual level – And suddenly, some day, such leader, detached from reality and organization, with no employees, will wake up and realize that actually nobody needs him anymore – nor him, nor his knowledge and experience, nor his skills, because the world has already moved forward.
Ah! This day is actually today!