Leading Your Company Forward in These Tumultuous Times
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Old business models are experiencing tectonic shifts across all industries. Retail is shrinking as online grows; Airbnb and ride-share services are changing how we think about assets like cars and real estate. Artificial intelligence, digital transformation, increased transparency and fading hierarchy are shifting the base of power in business. It’s all changing.
There’s a shifting social consciousness, too. The #metoo movement and the rise of the millennial workforce mean new and important conversations are taking place. If it we didn’t believe it before, we now know it’s true: A leader's personal behavior has a critical impact on business. Whether you are a disruptor or the disrupted, whether you’re directly implicated in a headline-grabbing crisis or merely stuck in a culture that’s no longer serving you or your mission, now is your opportunity. How can you harness the zeitgeist and use it for positive change?
You have to own it.
It’s not a new idea, but it’s one we don’t always acknowledge -- organizations become a shadow of their leader. Whether you have two or 20,000 employees, culture change has to start at the top and be authentic. Simply endorsing a certain set of values is not going to work. You must embody and model them on a daily basis. Period.
It might get uncomfortable. Owning culture change means getting vulnerable about what you need to work on at a personal level. No one is immune. The good news is that vulnerability is powerful: It fosters trust within the organization, all the way down to employees you may never see or connect with.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” management guru Peter Drucker famously once said. That is even more relevant today. Leaders have always needed what were thought of as “soft skills,” but some resisted. It didn’t fit an “ivory tower” mythology. Today’s leaders understand that culture is a strategic imperative.
Anger is out -- gratitude is in.
At its simplest, gratitude is a decision, a mindset that looks for the positives in any situation. Studies say gratitude improves well-being, creates happier relationships and even prevents disease. Professionally, gratitude fosters better ideas, ups creativity and collaboration, increases focus and productivity and improves morale.
Anger, self-righteousness and judgment create a downward spiral that leads, at best, to distraction and impatience. Next time you feel your blood pressure rising, take a deep breath, and then take a long walk. And watch not only your own effectiveness improve, but also that of those around you.
The kids get it.
Whether you’re a millennial or Gen Z or recruiting them, you recognize it’s not business as usual with the next generations. Self-actualization is huge for this rising workforce that wants to be included, recognized and inspired by their work. You don’t have to be a nonprofit to create a spirit of social consciousness at your organization; just tap into the issues your employees and customers care about, and they will lead the way.
The exciting thing about culture change is the potential it has to propel us toward something greater and build more resilience into our enterprise. A healthy culture has agility hardwired into it and can flex to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing marketplace. It can also position you to attract highly skilled employees and better investors.
The demand for more transparency than ever from the companies we choose to do business with, customers are waking up to the idea that they can reward companies that lead with integrity. The best employees typically want to work for companies that are highly regarded in the marketplace. Reputational gains and employee engagement are other positive outcomes of a healthier culture.
Don’t wait for the shifting sands of change to define you. Take your success, and that of your company, personally, and grow yourself into the type of leader that casts a long and positive shadow.