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An approaching year end is always a time for reflection and the past 12 months has given those at the helm of UK businesses a great deal to think about.
If leaders have learned one thing from the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) operating environment of the past 10 years, it is that they have no control over it.
To compound matters, the accelerated pace of technological change is posing significant challenges in the shape of digital transformation and digital disruption. To maintain competitive edge and succeed, organisations are fast realising that a digital strategy is a prerequisite.
In some cases, this will involve introduction of entirely new services and at very least will mean re-inventing and re-engineering processes and ways of working.
Before this, though, leaders must look inward and assess whether they are equipped with the necessary capabilities to take the company forward. The skillsets required to lead in these challenging times can often seem as complex and multi-layered as VUCA itself.
A meticulous self-assessment of capabilities is needed and appropriate action must be taken to strengthen and improve any leadership deficiencies that are identified.
There is no doubt, for instance, that future leaders need to be hardwired with resilience. The capacity to bounce back and deal with setbacks has increasingly been recognised as a desirable leadership trait even before the global recession but is now vitally important.
Indeed, high degrees of both physical and emotional resilience will be required to lead the organisation and its people through major change.
In addition to external pressure from markets and competitors, leaders will be required to manage the expectations of shareholders and stakeholders. In markets or sectors which have experienced severe turbulence or shocks they will have to demonstrate their own personal resilience to their workforces.
Moreover, they must build resilient organisations by creating the necessary conditions for workforces to be able to confront and deal with these challenges as well as to recover from disappointments.
With mounting levels of data and intelligence, leaders must also be able to apply critical thinking to assess what it means for their organisations. They must be able to absorb, assess and analyse information to identify the opportunities and threats and enable them to make the right decision at the right time.
The world is shifting to an era of data-driven decision-making but it will be those leaders who can step back and powerfully use the data to their advantage that will succeed.
Today’s unpredictable climate means not only do leaders need to be agile but must foster the right culture and conditions for the entire organisation to adapt and flex to different demands. The 24/7 always on world means that all organisations are operating in a ‘live’ situation which will require a shift in mindset for some workforces.
The year ahead may be a difficult one but if approached the right way it can also be a time for positive re-invention and an opportunity to breathe new life into systems, processes and ways of working.
Ultimately, strong leadership will be the differentiator between a smooth path or rocky road to transition.
Download Rialto’s executive report “Stepping up to the next Executive Level” here
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