3 Leadership Learnings for a Competitive Business in 2016

By Ray Schleibs – Iimagine Creative Innovation

There are of course many lists, trends and commentaries that come out around this time each year espousing and promoting the top of this and the focus area of that for the coming year, and arguably my three points are probably no different. In saying that though I have decided to focus my ‘3 Leadership Learnings for a Competitive Business in 2016’ on leadership trends and commercial imperatives that you already know about and that have been in play now for a period of time, so nothing ‘new’ or ‘revolutionary’. Each of my three leadership learnings for 2016 are areas that by now you should already be well across and have adopted as a core focus for management and organisational development. My reasoning for denoting these areas as key to a competitive business in 2016 is that these three are now rapidly becoming the fundamental basis of an intrinsic competitive advantage to your organisation in an increasingly dynamic and disruptive operating environment and marketplace. It is my view that if you aren’t doing these three areas very well by now and that each has not been deeply integrated into your organisation, you’d better get your skates on before your competitors do, including competitors that you don’t even know exist yet!

Let’s have a brief look as each of these 2016 Leadership Learnings

1.Understand and Leverage Technology and Hyper-Connected Networks

Leading your organisation and your marketplace in how and where you deploy and leverage technology has now become a standard point of competitive advantage across all industries. The key of course is truly understanding the current and emerging thinking and concepts behind ‘technology’, and to comfortably embrace the ‘technological eco-system’ surrounding your organisation and your industry (and wider economy). Being an effective and competitive leader in 2016 and beyond requires that you are ‘technically savvy, aware and comfortable’. By this I mean that you don’t fear the rapid progression, advances and impacts of technological change but are constantly looking for practical and relevant opportunities for your organisation to actively engage and embrace, both internally and externally, technologies that create and add real value to your customers and stakeholders This ‘improved value’ delivers a definable competitive advantage to your organisation and its product and service offering.

In 2016 there is no doubt that the relentless growth and progression in ‘ information charged customer power’ driven through enormously powerful customer enabling technologies such as next generation smartphones and hyper connected and interactive social media platforms will continue and most likely speed up. How your organisation chooses to engage and interact with past, present and future customers in this extremely transparent and technologically dynamic eco-system and the strategic position that it takes will in my view be a leadership defining position. The power and influence of ‘super charged’ social and connected networks in 2016 and beyond is something that I believe we are not even close to comprehending today. This will be a true test of innovative, inspired and informed leadership!

2. Focus your Organisation on Customer Needs and Experience Delivery

How well your organisation, product and services can deliver on and exceed the expectations of your customers is the ‘new black’ in the world of competitive advantage! This is in my view the biggest leadership challenge of 2016 and on-going. The key test will be how effective are you and your leadership team are in leading your organisation through the minefield of divergent views and priorities across your organisation and stakeholder group with the absolute commercial and competitive pressure of the hyper-connected, information enabled and personal expectation driven customers. These ‘connected customers’ being ever increasingly comfortable with switching and experimenting away from their habitual loyalties and behaviours in search of products, services and experiences that best accommodate their particular needs and desires. How well can your organisation establish, understand and design customer-centric solutions to individually defined customer needs? The twist here is that a definable, value adding competitive edge is increasingly moving away from providing your customers with ‘excellent service’ to your customer believing that ‘my needs and expectations of your service where realised and delivered’. This is a very different thought space, and thus requires a very different organisation, organisational culture and leadership style to design and deliver a winning, competitive strategy. This is service designed to deliver experiences based on customer needs and expectations not of what the organisation thinks that the customer wants and needs.

3. Build an Organisational Culture that Delivers ‘Definable Value’ in a rapidly changing Competitive Environment

Ultimately Leadership is about motivating performance, about making decisions, and most importantly about taking your organisation and its people on your journey. In 2016 as the global paradigm shifts toward ‘customer centricity’ continues and rapidly changing competitive landscapes drive organisations to focus on creativity and innovation in their service design and business models, their leadership styles and organisational cultures are under the microscope. There is no doubt that the competitive environment that every organisation operates in globally is in flux or disruption of one type or another. It is in these periods of uncontrollable change that the true quality and effectiveness of an organisations leadership and the adaptability and flexibility of its organisational structure and culture are exposed. To maintain a competitive edge in 2016 and beyond leadership will be about being willing to take the difficult decisions to potentially disrupt or at least substantially restructure your internal operating systems, your mix of team skill sets and capabilities, and to realign your long standing cultural norms to create an organisation that truly adds tangible and relevant value. Designing and leading an organisational culture that is at its core innovative of thought and process and is consistently proactive and nimble in recognising and adapting to rapidly customer and stakeholder needs and expectations in real time takes real guts and determination. Guts and determination drive change, change that is often unpopular and no well understood, but may just be the difference between your organisation thriving or dying. I implore you in 2016 to stand up and lead your newly focused, competitive organisation to the head of the pack and win! 

Throughout the process of change remember one of my favourite quotes from US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s first presidential inauguration speech in 1933. I believe this quote remains as pertinent today as then. At the time the world was in the grip of the Great Depression and he was asking the people across the US to stand up and urgently respond to the crisis by taking it on head on. His most famous line is at the beginning of his speech.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days” Quote Franklin D Roosevelt 1933

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and more importantly found it informative and useful.

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Go forth Design and Innovate!

Regards Ray Schleibs – Iimagine Creative Innovation