(Avadhesh Dixit is Head HR (India Region) at Moody’s Corporation. He is a global HR leader who has led HR function at GE Capital, TCS and CMC Ltd both In India and outside India.)
‘I alone cannot change the world, but I caste a stone across the waters to create many ripples’- Mother Teresa
Leadership in times of disruptive change
Thanks a lot for your positive response to career conversations with me! Your feedback should continue to come and I will attempt to address your most pressing career concerns. In the last issue, we discussed about great conversations that lead to finding great jobs. In current issue, I wanted to touch upon another important topic that is relevant to managers and leaders in the organization. The world is going through interesting phase of its development and change. This change is marked by rapid advancement in technology across Industries and businesses. Technology is causing wide ranging disruptions in business models and the way companies operate. There has not been a single management function that has not been impacted by technology. Some of this while on one hand is quite exciting but on the other hand is leading to considerable anxiety around future of jobs and careers. Managers and leaders in the organization are faced with newer challenges every day to keep pace with the external environment and to keep adapting to newer challenges. All this has led to yet another debate on what kind skills and competencies are needed in today’s leaders who are operating in a world that is changing every day.
Here we go!
- Visioning has gone short term: Leadership literature is incomplete without the mention of ‘‘Creating Long Term Vision’’ as one of the core skills of leaders. While this skill is still valid but its dimension has undergone a significant shift. The pace of disruption is so quick that it’s almost impossible to think and plan for very long term. It will be a big mistake to plan for very long term assuming that the plan is going to unfold in a manner as conceived by leaders. Today’s leaders should have long term orientation but have better insight on how things will pan out in short term. Unfortunately, short term could be as short as 1-3 years. Gone are the days when Technology used to take years to have meaningful impact on business models, today technology has power to disrupt businesses in weeks and months. This has led to change in popular belief that leadership is all about creating long term visions. In long term you only get disrupted. Bigger picture is not enough.
- Navigating Change Vs Creating Change: Managing Change is another very important dimension of leadership and here too the narrative is changing. There are going to be two kinds of organizations, one that will disrupt and the others that will get disrupted. Those who will get disrupted will be required to manage (reactionary) the change and those who disrupt are actually creating the change (Proactive) for self and others in ecosystem. No leader can afford to wait to be hit by the change any more. The imperative has changed and ‘Leaders must create the change rather than navigating the change’. The choice is very clear, either disrupt or get disrupted. Now this requires tremendous change in thinking at the end of today’s leaders. It’s all about being in change ready mode. There is more responding to change and this is what I call change ready leaders.
- Ability to identify blind spots: When continuous disruption is order of the day then continuous environment scanning should also be the order of the day. In many organizations, environment scanning is a yearly affair at the time of annual business planning exercise. Each unit is expected to look at the market and scan it for challenges as well as opportunities. Once the business plan is submitted, not many take out time to keep looking the business environment proactively. This is where the trouble lies as something somewhere is being done that has ability to knock you out of the market in no time. Hence, leaders of today have to be much more outward looking and keep identifying blind spots and bring them to table for discussions. So go out there and keep a constant vigil. You never know what will change when you get up next day.
- Understand and recognize the changing work system design: With the advent of sophisticated tools and technology, the nature of work is undergoing tremendous change. Even the way the work is being delivered is changing rapidly. It’s not uncommon for employees to work from home, cars, hotels and airports. This significantly changes the definition of workplace. Nature of employment is also undergoing change. Traditionally there was only one form of employment i.e. Full Time employment. With technology, people are opting to become part time workers as large variety of work can be delivered from anywhere in the world. Technology has enabled the ‘Gig Economy’ to expand. There are experts who do not was to work for only one employer but would rather prefer to offer their expertise to multiple employers. Some of these changes have led to rethink on how the work system should be designed. The concept of loyalty is never the same as a lot of organization’s core work may be getting done by people who are not its employees. Some of this also serious implications on how the reward and employee engagement practices should be structured. It is in this context that leaders of today must be evaluating the most effective work system designs all the time. Traditional 9 to 6 job from a physical location is already fading fast in tech enabled world of services organizations.
- Self-Awareness: Some of these rapid changes and state of constant flux can be daunting task to cope up with. That is why extent of ‘self-awareness’ of today’s leaders is going to be a critical differentiator in who wins this game of ‘being on toes all the time’. Leader is also entrusted with the responsibility of managing the team and its anxieties. Leaders who do not attempt to invest in knowing self can possible never understand others. Courage and strong conviction to change things proactively rather than waiting to disrupted is not going to be easy and it will require a stable head and a stable heart.
Next decade or so (possibly earlier) is going to remain disruptive as some of the technologies like artificial intelligence, block chain, robotics etc. gain more momentum. Quality of Leadership in organization will decide who will disrupt and who will get disrupted.
Happy Career Building!