Creating better futures … Why business leaders need a new mindset, to win in today’s incredible changing world

June 22, 2018

Leadership matters more than ever in today’s frantic and fantastic markets. More change in the next decade than the last 250 years. More uncertainty, yet also more possibilities than ever before. We need to make sense of the world, find confidence in the craziness, make better choices about where to go, and harness the collective ideas and talents of our people and partners more than ever before.

In fact we quite possibly need a new approach to leadership, to win in this incredible world.

The problem with most leaders is that they got to where they are today, by thriving on the old models of success. Models fit for stable and predictable markets, discrete and well structured organisations, where people trusted and respected hierarchy, where choices were limited, and progress was largely incremental. None of that works in today’s world.

The problem is that most leadership models haven’t kept pace with fast-changing business.

Of course we hear a lot of “stuff” about leadership: Creating vision, inspiring followers, nurturing talent … being authentic, humble, and open … building human capital, emotional agility, relational equity … ambidextrous, empowering, collective … and on. Every business school is packed with self-proclaimed leadership gurus, bookstores are crammed with leadership books, and we lap it all up.

Yet most leadership thinking hasn’t moved on in the last 30 years. Back then, Tom Peters certainly captured our interest with his ranting “In Search of Excellence”. Similarly Jim Collins inspired us, taking us to a new level (Level 5) of leadership, or from “Good to Great”. But since then, its largely been derivative thinking. And surprisingly inwards … about the leader’s self, and their organisation – rather than how they can shape the future.

The old leadership mindset was created to optimise the status quo. It was designed for steady-state markets, and structured organisations. Whilst we have moved from that old hierarchy of command and control, most leaders are focused on sustaining rather than creating. Most change is still an internal program to drive improvement or efficiency. It is adaptive, but not proactive. It is not responsive to the relentless change of today’s outside world. It doesn’t harness the new power of connectedness, social networks and business ecosystems. And it cares much more about those short-term improvements, than creating a better future.

Leadership should be about amplifying the potential of your ideas, of your people, and of your organisation. It is about you, and others, together. It’s not just about where you are, and what you need to do. It’s more about where you are going, and why that matters.

Leaders create a better future, they move us forwards, they inspire greatness, they enable new possibilities. They don’t just talk about change, they are the change. They make sense of the future. They make smarter choices. Meeting expectations is not enough. Making money is not enough. Incremental improvements are wasted effort. Being the mainstream is to become mediocre. Leaders need to look further ahead, to engage people more actively and emotionally, to inspire new ideas and actions, to challenge the old and create the new. Leaders should give us hope, confidence, and ability … to be bolder and braver … to together reach for the stars.

It’s time for a new leadership mindset, to win in a new business world.

This week, I’m delighted to be launching the new flagship executive program of IE Business School, called the Global Advanced Management Program (Global AMP). It’s a 4 week global program, for the next generation of business leaders, those people about to step up to the C-suite. Rather than a load of abstract theory, this is leadership set in the context of today – an incredible, fast-changing world.

As the Global AMP’s Academic Director, my job is to create the ultimate leadership experience for the winning leaders of tomorrow. To do this, I have scoured the world for the best existing and new ideas, but also the real things that work in practice, for established leaders, and those on the up. What can we learn from Jeff Bozos and Jack Ma, but equally from other areas like sports, politics, culture and society?

We’ve brought together the best ideas, and also a fantastic network of faculty, from then world’s leading business schools, but also leaders from start-ups and corporate giants. We’ll be deep diving into real-time case studies – such as EcoAlf, the sustainable fashion brand, or Credit Suisse, one of the world’s leading investment banks. And each participant will develop a blueprint for their future business.

We will explore the most useful leadership concepts and skills today, but also the best new approaches to business. Because the two are inseparable. From the megatrends driving future progress, to the ability shape markets and reengage customers, innovating far beyond products and services, and rethinking organisations and strategies to win in a digital-physical continuum, that also has huge inherent paradoxes.

So here are some stimulating minds on leadership to get you thinking:

Marshall Goldsmith, often quoted as the world’s top leadership coach, says “what got you here, won’t get you there”. He sees leadership as a contact sport:

Elon Musk is the entrepreneur who now finds himself leading a huge organisation. He’s actually a very humble, hands-on, hard-working guy – but with incredible dreams, passion and positivity:

Jim Collins, famous for taking us from “Good to Great” gets straight to the point – leadership is not personality. The real question, he says, is why are you in it?

Mary Barra is the first CEO in the automotive industry. She has been tested like never, with declining markets, new competitors, bankruptcy and crisis. But then she rose up to help GM grow again:

Jack Ma went from earning $1000 a year teaching English, to creating Alibaba worth $500 billion. He is in inspiring, charismatic and visionary. What are his secrets?

Robin Sharma explores Leadership 2.0, because he also argues for a new style of leadership in today’s world … One of Robin’s suggestions is get up early, and his next book is called The 5 AM Club

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, believes that leaders need to be distinctive. Whilst they need a awareness of the whole business, they also need a skill. She offers her 5Cs for leadership:

Simon Sinek starts with followership. How? Well his book “Start with Why” is one good answer, which seems obvious, although most of us like to start with what. More recently he wrote “Why Leaders Eat Last”:

Hal Gregersen talks about how to see yourself and the world differently by asking different questions. This is perhaps the biggest insight I gained … its not having the answers, its asking better questions:

Roselinde Torres describes 25 years observing truly great leaders at work, and shares the three simple but crucial questions … and why most leadership development programs don’t work:

Pep Guardiola is one of the world’s most successful soccer managers – managing Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester City to incredible success in their respective leagues and competitions:

Kobe Bryant is a basketball legend, playing his entire 20 year career with the LA Lakers. This video profiles his growth as a leader on the playing field, and his importance to the team:

Steve Jobs on leadership, talking about the simplicity of working in a start-up, and why large organisations need to learn the same traits of focus and teamwork, trust and collaboration:

Suli Breaks is one the world’s leading spoken word poets who captivates audiences with his phenomenal wordplay. He is surprising, and inspiring. Here he is closing TEDx at the Houses of Parliament:

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