The speed of business has increased dramatically these days. Markets no longer carry the complacent. In this environment, leaders must operate under a 5-7 year arc and then they need to completely reinvent themselves and their companies. If there is some game changing event or circumstance, the pace of this change may even need to accelerate. Moreover, this is an on-going cycle that continually repeats itself – there is no respite from it. Given this reality, it’s no surprise that leaders often burnout and rarely make it through more than a few cycles. In public companies they make not even make it through one full cycle, which just creates an on-going sense of business confusion and turbulence.
Having watched this dynamic for quite some time now, I offer the following recommendations for leaders who want to stay ahead of their reinvention curve:
1) Make it a point to get outside of your intellectual comfort zone. Look for opportunities to broaden your knowledge and perspective as often as you can. Be careful not to just surround yourself with people or other information sources that just confirm your world view. Just like a muscle, your brain will atrophy if isn’t pushed to exercise itself.
2) Regularly try new things both personally and professionally. Don’t get stuck in a rut or always default to playing to your comfort zone. It’s okay to have some level of predictability and ritual in your life, but that should never be the ultimate goal. We mostly grow through new experiences.
3) Make sure your organization is always on the lookout for new talent and ideas. You should be in a constant recruiting mode even if you are not hiring at any given point and time. When you get a chance to upgrade your key people, do so without reservation or hesitation. Lifelong employment is a thing of the past.
4) Embrace technology as value driver for your company and for you as the leader. Leaders no longer have the luxury of being “late adopters” or taking a “wait and see” approach to technological innovation. You won’t always get it right but at least you won’t be falling too far behind.
5) Make reinvention a regular part of your senior team discussions including specific planning sessions where being proactive about the long range future of the company is the sole topic for discussion.
6) Get out and visit you top clients on a regular basis. Not just to sell them something, but to listen to their issues and challenges, as well as their thoughts on potential solutions.
7) Make yourself publicly accountable by seeking out speaking or other communication opportunities that push you to discuss the future of your industry/business. You’ll have to prepare to be effective and this will keep you on your toes.
8 ) Stay fit and healthy by practicing positive lifestyle habits. Physical endurance and resilience is key when you operate in a high stress environment. The old adage still rings true, “healthy body, healthy mind.”
9) Join a leadership peer group that is heterogeneous rather than homogeneous in its make-up. There is no better leadership vantage point than having a front row view of other’s business issues and challenges (and how they handle them).
It always saddens me when a leader has obviously stayed past his/her prime. You can almost see the organizational decay and impending business vulnerability begin to set in. What constitutes everyone’s prime is different, but at least you can push yourself to be the best you can be.