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Over the past several years, I’ve witnessed the decline of courageous leadership in American enterprise. Rather than welcoming the change in order to evolve, leaders are playing it safe. Where are the leaders with the strategic focus and wisdom to take a leap of faith and the tenacity to find new ways of doing things?
Today’s leaders must have more intimate knowledge of the business, design workplace cultures, and build teams that are focused on continuously evolving with the end-game in mind. To do so, leaders must embrace a new type of thinking that helps organizations reach higher levels of influence to ensure the overall business evolves and its leaders stay ahead of the rapid changes taking place to compete in the global marketplace.
Leaders must be change agents who are not afraid to get uncomfortable and take ownership when it comes to creating the next big thing for their businesses, people, and industry to evolve. But according to research conducted by my organization, 78% of leaders have difficulty understanding and effectively articulating the requirements to thrive in the rapidly changing marketplace – and the consequences of not doing so. Perhaps this explains why only 32% of leaders define themselves as change agents.
Here are five ways leaders must evolve business and reinvent industries for the 21st century.
Build teams and corporate culture for the new wisdom-based economy
Leaders must move away from the traditional workplace model that promotes a top-down, hierarchical, departmental, siloed, one-size-fits-all mentality. Leaders accept that we are transitioning from a knowledge-based to a wisdom-based economy. It’s not just about what you know, but what you do with what you know. This mindset will allow leaders to stop unknowingly creating work environments infused with tension, as they learn to embrace and promote diversity of thought.
Don’t stand in the way of progress with “substitutional” thinking
Leaders must break free of substitutional thinking (old templates) that slow progress down and make it difficult to measure workplace, strategic partnership, and marketplace evolution and create a distinct competitive advantage. It’s becoming less about the business defining the individual and much more about the individual defining the business. The minute leaders stop touching the business, they stop understanding the impact that individuality can have on the evolution of the business.
Enable the full potential of others
Business evolution requires leaders to continually identify, enable and leverage the full potential of their teams, partnerships, and client relationships. They must take ownership and be courageous enough to see beyond the obvious to avoid complacency; to anticipate the unexpected to ensure that circumstances don’t force their hand; to explore endless possibilities in search of previously unseen opportunities; to invest in relationships and maximize the utilization of resources to be more strategic and efficient; to build new ecosystems to strengthen the organization’s intellectual capital and momentum; and to lead to leave a legacy of significance and sustained success.
Invest in the Cultural Demographic Shift™ and create new areas of growth
Leaders must commit themselves to invest in the seismic Cultural Demographic Shift – the last remaining true growth opportunity. This requires a new layer of intelligence that embraces the strategic implications of cultural fluency, innovative team-building, marketing strategies, global competitiveness, and the new requirements for talent acquisition and consumer engagement.
View diversity as a profit center, not as a cost center
We must move away from the tactical approach of viewing diversity as a cost center, which clouds growth, slows progress down, and makes businesses vulnerable to new – and less traditional thinking – competitors. The new way forward is to guide our organizations to be more diverse in their thinking and to broaden their observations to create new profit centers for strategic growth – where talent and market development represent two sides of the same coin. You may only see one side at a time, but they must co-exist because they are unavoidably connected.