What are the top 5 challenges for leaders globally, and how can you deal with them?
by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions
Leaders are under increasing pressure having to deal with more, with less, whilst having to handle the 5 challenges of the modern business world.
This article looks at each of the five major challenges in turn and identifies the key strategies that leaders need to develop to meet these challenges and, in doing so, become great leaders in turn and to develop leaders within the business at all levels.
Andrew’s 5 Challenges for Leaders
1. Dealing with the New Business Reality
2. Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”
3.Restore Confidence & Trust
4. To Collaborate & Empower
5. Building Individual & Organizational Resilience
Challenge 1: Dealing with the New Business Reality
The world for leaders is changing, and the rate at which this is occurring is increasing exponentially whilst its effects are being seen, and compounded, in 4 different areas:
- Volatility – the increasing rate, amount, and magnitude of change
- Uncertainty – the amount of unpredictability inherent in issues and events
- Complexity – the increasing amount of dependency and interactive effects between multiple factors and driver.
- Ambiguity – the degree to which information, situations, and events can be interpreted in multiple ways.
For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 1
To deal with these factors, leaders need to develop on an integrated basis, the following:
- Vision – having a clear picture of the purpose of your business and where you are going.
- Understanding – the leader takes the time to stop, look and listen to what is happen, this is beyond their functional expertise and beyond just their business.
- Clarity – the leader needs to spend the time and effort in deliberately working to make sense of the chaos that exists.
- Agility – the ability to communicate openly across the organization and to move quickly to apply solutions, the rapid prototyping of ideas & actions to develop solutions.
For further information on this see How to Manage Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – Part 2.
Challenge 2: Paradoxes Moving from “Either/Or” to “And”
Leaders are having to make decisions and deal with increasingly juxtaposed areas: for example, do we mass produce or customise our offerings, do we focus on the short-term or the long-term etcetera. Usually this has been treated as an either/or choice or, at best, achieving a blend between the two and effecting a compromise. Either of these two ways are often sub-optimal and limit the future opportunities.
Leaders need to manage these paradoxical situations and to meet both sets of demands simultaneously to survive and thrive. Leaders need to achieve a balance between multiple sets of demands, requiring them to be able to quickly weigh and evaluate the situation and to obtain multiple perspectives from others to incorporate in the development and execution of the appropriate strategy.
Challenge 3: Restore Confidence & Trust
Research from Sirota has shown a steady decline over the last 5-6 years in the level of people’s confidence in their business, their leaders, and the future.
This is reflected in the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, with nearly two-thirds of people only believing what is said by companies having heard it three to five times. This reflects both the high level of skepticism and the fact that messages need repeating to get through the ‘noise’ of the environment.
Leaders need to restore confidence and trust in themselves, the business and the future. This needs to extend to include the external stakeholders, not just the only internal stakeholders (e.g. employees). In doing this leader need to provide clear direction, clear and consistently understood the message, and that everyone is aligned with this by ensuring the core values are commonly understood and applied throughout the business. This needs to ensure that the systems & processes and reward systems actively support this.
Challenge 4: To Collaborate & Empower
To lead in an increasingly challenging environment requires leaders, counter-intuitively, to loosen controls to gain more control. Being able to adapt and anticipate to the new business reality requires leaders to review and refine their goals, and to create an inspiring vision which is clearly articulated and understood to all levels of the business internally, and to external stakeholders. In doing these leaders need to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and to extend their networks of relationships. They also need to ensure that the business has the right core values and that these are actively supported and built into how business is done. This creates a strong, pervading culture that aligns people and what they do.
To drive better communication and coordination between departments, and to reduce internal turf-fights and conflicting objectives, the vision needs to be shared and cascaded appropriately at each level. Furthermore, in doing this, leaders across the business and at all levels need to be empowered with the responsibility and authority to achieve their goals, to be equipped with the necessary skills and capabilities to carry them out, and enable them to perform by providing the necessary support to actively developing both their skills and potential as leaders and those of their reports.
Challenge 5: Building Individual & Organisational Resilience
In dealing with new business reality leaders need to help their people and their organization to build resilience and agility. This includes the ability to move quickly, decisively. effectively and proactively whilst capitalizing on existing strengths, developing new strengths and identifying current strengths which may become weaknesses or liabilities as the business and market environments change,
The importance of developing people resilience, including engaging people emotionally whilst growing and developing them, and providing them with a sense of purpose and belonging, is reflected in the findings of the 2012 American Psychological Association Workplace Survey reported. In this, it reported that 41% (over two out of every five employees) of employed adults feel stressed out during the workday.
The top 5 sources of stress were identified as:
- Low salaries
- Lack of opportunity or growth or advancement
- Too heavy of a workload
- Long hours
- Uncertain or undefined job expectations
Furthermore, less than half of employees reported:
- Being satisfied with the growth and development opportunities offered by their employer (46%)
- Being satisfied with the employee recognition practices of their employer (48%).
- Feeling they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (48%).
The importance of having employees who feel valued is also important:
- Employed adults who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer (93% vs. 33%).
- They are also more likely to report they would recommend their workplace to others (85% vs. 19%).
- On the other hand, those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to report that they intend to seek employment outside of their company next year (50% vs. 21%).
In dealing with these five challenges leaders need to have an integrated and disciplined approach. At its essence is the ability to empower, enable and equip people and leaders at all levels in the organization. Critical to doing this is building the necessary skills and capabilities into their day to day work.
To develop the necessary individual, team and organizational agility and flexibility leaders need to develop and embed the skills into how they work, allowing experiential learning to occur as they learn and apply the new skills in addressing and gaining traction with key challenges and opportunities. Providing the on-going support to help the teams and individuals is essential to this, and by enabling people to teach what they have learned to their peers, team members and reports they can gain mastery and continue to deliver sustainable results. This produces not only in-house skills and capabilities but creates leadership bench strength and an on-going leadership pipeline on which the organization can draw to meet current and future needs.
Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.