Culture and Leadership are inextricably linked. Our ability to lead comes from our personal culture and the way we manage relationships.
The central dynamic of this era is that of Creative Destruction whereby society and business are shedding layers of the old and embracing the new, and it’s not bad. Rather, it’s about embracing the future. To do that, one needs to have a fundamentally open mind, an optimistic spirit, a natural self-belief and a level of fearlessness that is not always present in everyone.
If Creative Destruction is the reality, and for some economies and businesses the problem, what’s the solution? Ecosystem Economics® is the Answer to the Opportunity of Creative Destruction. What’s that?
Leaders are people who create the conditions of trust so that great things can happen. So said Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State, in 2001 at DAVOS to a group of Global Leaders for Tomorrow. Leaders today ask themselves a question that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought to ask even a decade ago: ‘How should this industry work?’ That is, they think in Ecosystems. And if they’re smart and experienced, they know that the winners are those who organize the economics of their ecosystems. That’s the goal, and that’s what explains the Network Asset Value of the native digital platforms.
So it’s no longer about becoming the most profitable company in your industry but driving the profitability of your industry. That requires a dose of superhuman leadership to achieve because it means shifting your business fundamentally into a different way of operating. That requires breaking into your own house as you probably know where the door lock is faulty, the window doesn’t close well, etc. What most executives are focusing on today is disruption and digital disruption. But those out ahead are turning the disrupters into enablers.
Again culture is key.
How can you as an executive in a larger company in travel, retail, pharma, education or whatever convince the best problem solvers and product developers to build on your company as a platform? If you want entrepreneurs to drive their cars down your highway, then, maintain it well, and make them go fast.
If you need Digital Enablers to build new Digital Revenues for you, then you must become a Platform that encompasses the following characteristics:
- User or Consumer Centricity, not Product Centricity – how you enable individuals to do things is critical; you are building profit per user rather than profit per product, and that profit measure requires knowledge of your users
- IT and Marketing are not Cost-Centres but Cost of Sales; the cost of delivery is wrapped up in each unit transaction
- Everything about your business is fundamentally network-driven no longer linear
If you are responsible inside the organization for ‘Innovation’ or New Business Development areas, then your job is ultimately to fill in the gaps in the new financial architecture that the CFO is trying to understand and build. He/she can only make assumptions at the outset but they can be tested through engagement with groups of users and start-ups.
Entrepreneurs have insight into the future, so larger companies need to recognize that, and their leadership teams need to be humble towards them. Follow The Entrepreneur is the mantra of every vibrant corporate culture. However, no Venture Capitalist is going to give any entrepreneur 50 m Euros, Sterling or Dollars to build a highway in order to acquire customers. They will say – do a deal with a highway. So the larger company – whether publishing, transportation, banking or whatever needs to be the BEST HIGHWAY possible. This is not a DUMB PIPE, but a SMART HIGHWAY.
So the components of Organisational Change are:
- Engage your drivers or your users
- Put them into contact with the best cars or start-ups – or Digital Enablers or Davids
- Then invite them to drive down your Autobahn as fast as possible with the best fuel stations, tire changing stops etc.
Drivers, Cars, Highways
The Leaders of businesses that are winning will understand how to organize these shifts by first internalizing the Digital Playbook. They will create new incentives for people which align them to the Digital Playbook.
The Figure Eight Model of Sustainable Change is critical whereby whatever project needs to be undergone has a team that undergoes the investment into the project to bring it about, ensuring that the team benefits from the project’s impact in the Return on Investment Phase.
Feminine Leadership is embraced whereby Bottom-Up / GrassRoots teams naturally overtake Top-Down structures. People want to architect their own futures; the trick of feminine leadership is to grant autonomy where alignment to the over-arching goals has been checked.
Leadership is lonely. Most people think about their own lives, their own goals, their own issues. Leaders are people who worry about the System-Level Win. They know that their self-interest is making the world a world of interdependence where people are neither dependent victims nor independent jerks.
Back to the Figure Eight
The world is fundamentally not Zero-Sum. There is enough out there for all of us to both have enormous prosperity as well as lift others up.
Of this I am certain. Every time I see people settling for the Zero-Sum version of the future, I am sad. We are never prisoners of the table we sit at, the location of our birth, the circumstances of our early years. We have the ability to say to ourselves daily in the mirror: What will my life be about? What is my Unique Contribution to this world? How can I grow the camembert instead of living in a Tragedy of the Commons existence?
I was fortunate that I grew up in a home where I knew I was deeply loved. My mother is love personified. When you are loved, you have a natural advantage there is no question. I am also fortunate that as an American, I am free in the brain to create. As a Christian, I am forgiven. As an athlete, I became competitive with myself. As an entrepreneur, I am obsessed, and I have to create trust so that great things can happen. As an introvert, I have a huge desire to spend huge amounts of time on my own. As a Humanities major, I see connections. As a CEO, I have to ensure the show goes on. As a woman, I understand influence more than control. Sharing who we are gives us our ability to lead.
People are complex. Culture is the integration of complex people’s lives. Leadership happens when people align to a System-level win because they feel safe in being who they are and they grab hold of a common goal. How businesses operate, how people build their Personal Economies, how their data becomes a real Property Right of themselves and how people work through networks instead of pyramids will shape the next decades of our lives.