It’s Time for Your BOLDEST Leadership Ever

In the words of Peter Drucker, “Leaders in every single institution and in every single sector … have two responsibilities. They are responsible and accountable for the performance of their institutions… They are responsible also, however, for the community as a whole.”

During the past two decades of developing leaders and helping organizations thrive, I’ve learned a lot about what great leaders do to succeed in an increasingly complex and interdependent world.  Global forces such as disruptive innovation, environmental degradation, population shifts, and stakeholder influence continue to converge to transform how business operates. These challenges require leaders to evolve their capabilities to do more than build profitable organizations; they must also create a better world.

With this landscape in mind, I’ve captured the most critical leadership capabilities in what I refer to as the BOLDEST Leadership Competency model stressing mastery in seven areas:

B – Boundaries

O – Opportunities

L – Learning

D – Deliverables

E- Emotions

S – Systems

T – Talents

Challenges require leaders to evolve their capabilities to do more than build profitable organizations; they must also create a better world.

While individual leaders may not be strong in every area, organizations should build these leadership capabilities throughout the enterprise at all levels.

Boundaries

Today’s leaders must reach across boundaries inside and outside of the organization to forge alliances, build coalitions for change, influence critical stakeholders and break through old mindsets and functional silos.  Redefining business, industry and communities presents challenges too big for any one institution to address on its own.   The work by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition serves as a prominent example of apparel companies working with their competitors, NGOs, growers, factory owners, governments and others up and down the entire value chain to profitably reinvent the industry to address social and environmental issues through innovation.  Members represent more than a third of the global apparel and footwear market.

Opportunities

Moving into unchartered territory at lightning speed requires leaders to see around the bend, to find new opportunities, create compelling visions and promote optimism. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, has said “Every significant change, every revolutionary idea, every heartfelt gesture that changes one life or a thousand, was once seen as eccentric.  Leaders are few and followers many for a reason:  change requires bucking the staus quo, and a willingness to be perceived as crazy, dangerous, or ridiculous.  …. They change the world because their passion and conviction will not allow them not to.”  Roddick grew the beauty products company to stay true to its five core values on fair trade, human rights, animal rights, self-esteem and protecting our planet.  Now owned by L’Oreal, The Body Shop has more than 2,500 stores in over 60 markets around the world.

Moving into unchartered territory at lightning speed requires leaders to see around the bend, to find new opportunities, create compelling visions and promote optimism.

Learning

Being able to quickly absorb complex information, foster innovation and create a continuous learning culture have become essential in our fast-changing, interconnected world. Peter Senge and his colleagues introduced the concept of becoming a learning organization, where a company facilitates learning at all levels in order to continuously transform. Leading companies also reach outside to learn from others.  Coca-Cola Enterprises works with its supply chain partners to find innovative, sustainable products and services and partners with NGOs such as WWF and Greenpeace to reduce its environmental footprint.  Global giant Walmart approached Patagonia to learn how to become more sustainable.

Deliverables

Coca-Cola Enterprises publicly commits to “Deliver for Today; Inspire for Tomorrow.”  Forward thinking leaders such as John Brock, the company’s CEO, know they must continue to deliver value to shareholders in ways that also create value for society and the planet. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, repeatedly stresses that the company’s Sustainable Living Plan isn’t just part of its business plan, it is the business plan.  The 2010 plan sets ambitious 10-year targets for the global consumer product company to double its size while it cuts the environmental footprint of its products in half, has 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials come from sustainable sources, and helps more than one billion people improve their health and wellbeing.

Being able to quickly absorb complex information, foster innovation and create a continuous learning culture have become essential in our fast-changing, interconnected world.

Emotions

Research by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Fabio Sala and others clearly illustrates that emotional intelligence matters as much as brainpower.  Leaders with strong emotional intelligence operate with integrity, self-confidence, empathy, self-awareness, social skills and self-regulation.   Patagonia’s CEO, Yvonne Chouinard, built the company’s success based on its values.  It’s mission, referred to as “Our Reason for Being” states that the company will “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”   Chouinard’s integrity comes through in making critical decisions for Patagonia.  For instance, when he committed to using only organic cotton, he was willing to put 25 percent of the company’s revenues at risk if they didn’t meet the self-imposed deadline.

Systems

The best leaders think and operate systemically by recognizing patterns and connections and managing complexities.  They simultaneously consider opposing ideas to understand differing perspectives and foster innovative solutions.  Peter Senge promotes bringing systems thinking into every aspect of business and industry.  Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz has been recognized as an advocate and successful business leader.  Schultz recognizes that companies operate within many other systems such as communities, supply chains, farms, factories, transportation, technology, governments, and people.   Engaging stakeholders in and out of the organization broadens everyone’s perspective and sheds light on risks and opportunities.

Leaders with strong emotional intelligence operate with integrity, self-confidence, empathy, self-awareness, social skills and self-regulation.

Talents

Top leaders hire, retain and deploy top talent and build organizational capacity.  When CEO Phil Martens joined aluminum-maker Novelis in 2009, his strategy to turn the company around centered on creating a cohesive culture, building a robust leadership team and developing the organizational capabilities needed to reinvent and reinvigorate the business.   The company went from a loss of $1.9 billion in 2009, to four straight years of profit, and is well on track to double their 2011 earnings by 2016.  Novelis credits its turnaround in large part to its investment in building talent at all levels of its 11,000 employee global workforce.

If we fail to achieve the future we need to sustain business, society and the planet, it won’t be due to a lack of innovation or a lack of resources; it will be due to a lack of leadership.  It’s time for us to strive for the bold leadership we need to take us through this new era.

 

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Image credit: serazetdinov / 123RF Stock Photo

Diana Rivenburgh is President and CEO of Strategic Imperatives (www.strategic-imperatives.com) and a strategy and organizational change specialist working with clients to build sustainable, profitable organizations by creating leading-edge strategies, developing strong leaders, transforming cultures, and engaging stakeholders.  Clients have included Novo Nordisk, PVH, Verint, AkzoNobel, Adecco, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, DentaQuest, and Ahold USA.  She has held several corporate leadership positions with Gartner, Gentiva Health Services, Olsten Corporation, and NEC.  Rivenburgh consults and speaks around the world and is a faculty member for the Singapore Sustainability Institute.  As a Board of Advisor member of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, she also serves on their Global Commerce Committee, the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Committee, and the Clean Tech Council.  Rivenburgh frequently presents on strategy, culture, sustainability, change, and leadership at conferences and to professional associations, community organizations, and educational institutions.  She has her M.S. in Positive Organizational Development and Change from Case Western Reserve University and her B.S. in Business Administration from New York Institute of Technology.

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