Leadership Disrupted … reinventing the role of business leaders in a world of dramatic and relentless change

January 16, 2018

Kyocera, the Japanese multinational ceramics and electronics manufacturer, needed to become more agile, adaptable, and resilient in order to face increasing competition, changing customer needs, and new business models. Under the leadership of Kazuo Inamori, Kyocera reorganized its 50 divisions into 400 amoebas: self-organizing units that are responsible for their own business. Every amoeba has its own support functions (finance, HR, etc.) and does business together in an internal market environment, constantly searching for better customers. Depending on the business situation, the amoeba can be divided into smaller units or integrated with other amoebae.

Facing similar business challenges, Haier, the Chinese consumer electronics and home appliances company led by Zhang Ruimin, reorganized its 80,000-person workforce into 2,000 independent units, each with its own P&L, with employees paid based on performance. Like Kyocera, Haier’s units are aligned with the overall business objectives and guidelines even when they adapt to the changing business circumstances locally. They are organized to listen constantly to clients and the business environment. They are always ahead of the curve. They invest in their readiness to shape the future. To stay ahead, both Inamori and Ruimin disrupted their organizations by re-thinking their roles and responsibilities within the organization.

“As the water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, so a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.”

As technology, customer preferences, demographic shifts, and sharing economies disrupt our ways of working, leadership is also on the verge of disruption. Since organizations need leaders at all levels to remain agile and adaptable, your ability to lead through a disruptive business environment will be an essential competitive advantage. There is a significant shift in leadership practices. Where are you today, and where do you need to be tomorrow?

A new paper by the Centre for Creative Leadership describes the transformation required.

Old World

New World

A leader leads a defined team of followers.

A leader leads open and dynamic networks and teams of followers.

A leader is formally or semi-formally assigned, acknowledged, and defined.

Leadership is defined by role and is contextual.

There are defined organizational structures with clear direct and dotted lines.

Structures are organized through networks of influence. Multiple leadership roles are networked, dynamic, and highly contextual. Multi-function project team structures are increasingly popular as a way of organizing.

Teams are structured for command and control.

Teams are structured for agility and performance. This means that there is always a multi-tiered way of organizing for speed, agility, adaptability, and stability.

A leader leads with vision, direction, plans, and followers on a relatively stable roadmap.

A leader has a core vision and insights, but the rest is highly dynamic and uncertain.

Leaders’ effectiveness depends on their influence on individuals.

New media offers multiple channels to extend leaders’ influence in ways not seen before.

Communication channels are tightly managed and controlled by the brand.

User-generated content on new media channels affects the brand, image, and influence (i.e., leaks are quickly spread via social media, potentially derailing leaders and organizations). All business leaders must demonstrate skill and strategy in using new communications channels.

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