For some, the image of William Wallace giving an inspirational speech to his fellow countrymen before they go to battle in the movie Bravehart comes to mind. Others may think of Tom Hanks’ character Capt. Miller in Saving Private Ryan as he leads the 2nd Ranger Battalion on the beaches of Normandy. Others would like to think of business leaders like Sam Walton (Walmart) and Ray Kroc (McDonald’s). But these are leaders from another time. They represent success models for the world that was, and not for the world we live in today and certainly not for the world that is coming.
This problem happens when too many companies and their leaders look to the past to develop leaders for the future. A study of 4,000 companies conducted by The Boston Consulting Group asked them, “What is the effectiveness of your leadership development programs?” Fifty-eight percent of the companies cited significant talent gaps in critical leadership roles. That means that despite corporate training programs, off-sites, assessments, retreats and a myriad of other strategies, more than half the companies had failed to develop effective leaders.
It’s no wonder these leadership development programs are failing. They rely on strategies that worked in the past. Of course, it is very tempting for leaders to look into the rear-view mirror to find their future leaders. This approach may have worked in the past but has become toxic to the modern-day discovery of leadership potential. That is because today’s leader needs to go beyond familiar patterns and be able to lead through the shifting landscape of constant change.
Today’s business environment is characterized by rapid, extensive change and unpredictability. The combined effects of virtualization, increased connectivity, globalization, demographic shifts, and feedback through social media are shaking the foundations of almost all businesses, making sustained growth more valuable and elusive than ever before. At a time when the ability to transform is so crucial, most companies are often hampered by internal complexity that makes change difficult.
In today’s volatile, uncertain, and globally distributed business environment, executives are finding it harder than ever to stay on top and lead change. In fact, typically 75% of change initiatives fail. That statistic is not surprising considering the following trends:
- Turbulence has undermined the efficacy of long-range forecasting and traditional strategic planning in many industries.
- The nature of competition has become more diverse, with environments that were once considered mature and predictable, now very volatile and highly changeable.
- Leaders face new expectations from their more diverse, multigenerational workforces.
Leaders of all enterprises need to look beyond short-term financial performance, watch for potential disruptions and shifts, and then preemptively address them. They need to be able to constantly lead their companies through change. In short, successful companies can only perpetuate their successes through continuous preemptive renewal. This is achieved by having leaders who are able to consistently respond to and lead through change.
In order to be a successful modern business leader, you must remember that the days of predictability and stability in organizations are gone. In today's world of rapid change, agility is a defining characteristic of successful, high-performance companies. It is essential that the ability of an organization to work at change be institutionalized.
To learn more about how your organization can achieve this facility, download our The Ten Task of Change - Checklist and learn a whole-systems approach to change and a model for dealing with rapid and intentional change in the twenty-first-century organization.