Extraordinary events compel us to reconsider established ideas around what qualifies as growth and success. Although it is a no brainer that businesses will always be concerned with driving revenue, now more than ever, senior leadership will need to wake up to the requirement of placing leadership strategy front and centre of every business plan.
Why do I say this? Because the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change that was already underway across sectors. Whether it is the imperative to be flexible and open to change, or uncompromisingly customer focused and technology-driven, the global health and economic crisis of 2020 has made it clear that to thrive in a post-pandemic world, companies will need to re-define and reassess the role and of leadership.
How can they do that and what should it consist of?
A couple of things. First and foremost, what all businesses will have to make peace with is the reality of sudden change. This means that no plan, no matter how intricately designed or perfectly executed, can be expected to stay relevant for the duration it has been envisaged. Unexpected shifts in the external environment, whether due to market changes, trade wars, or other global crises, can puncture the best made plans.
Which is why one quality companies will have to actively foster is an unshakeable comfort with ambiguity. This ability, which stems from emotional intelligence, can equip every kind and size of business to stay afloat and relevant no matter what the circumstance.
Once equipped with this, senior executives at the helm of companies can institute structures to ensure the identification and grooming of the next generation of leaders with an eye on those who bring multiple talents, including legal, financial, and operational backgrounds, and a proven ability to adapt to dramatic change and demonstrate a steadfast commitment to customer requirements.
Clearly, what this means is in the coming years having a growth mindset will require a move away from a fixated focus on only growing revenues to growing and grooming talent. Managers will have to think more expansively to scout for future leaders with a proven ability to shift between competencies and areas effortlessly and bring a variety of skills and perspectives, including legal, technological, and commercial expertise to business.
In my view, growth in the new environment will rest on a company enabling a customer to undergo cost-effective and relevant transformation. However, whether the transformation takes place around data or automation or operations, being able to bring it all together is no longer going to be enough.
What companies will be required to do instead is prove an ability to enable transformation while creating an outcome. For example, this could mean that a bank is able to offer its customer the flexibility of being priced for each loan it processes. Or, that an insurance company prices the processing of a policy to individual customers or that a mortgage company prices its customers for the mortgage loans it agrees to process. In each instance, what is being offered and priced is not just a product or service but an outcome.
When businesses shift to operating in this way, what happens in the process is that a company’s entire services and financials come together, its contractual agreement with the customer come together and having the flexibility built into each of these elements also comes together. Establishing comprehensive long-term, high value contracts with customers then depends on successfully delivering what the customer wants, close to its own revenue model. The longevity and success of such contracts will also depend on how well companies are able to invest in their own employees to help them see themselves in new expanded roles where they are regularly expected to be ‘punching above their weight’ to meet emerging customer requirements.
As Stanford researcher and growth mindset specialist, Carol Dweck, says, “a growth mindset enables us to engage with challenges rather than freeze out of fear”. It is not uncommon for massive, unforeseen change to invoke fear. But companies that are able to overcome this primary response and master an ability to deal with tough times will strike a path towards growth riding on inspired leadership.