What if I told you that your profits don’t come from your great products or services? They also don’t come from your latest online campaign, and they certainly don’t come from your improved multichannel strategy.
So where do they come from? The answer is simple: According to the recent Mercer study, 52% of a company’s long-term profitability is directly related to the quality of their leadership team. When you ask different leaders in an organization about how they would rate their personal leadership performance, though, only 39% see themselves doing a good job with their leadership abilities.
So what makes it so difficult to be a good leader? It all starts out with
the bad quality — or sometimes the nonexistence — of decision-making that’s frustrating. Instead of having the guts to say “A” or “B” and have a solid reasoning behind it, many leaders play ping-pong with important and critical business decisions. By doing so, they oversee the fact that in the digital economy fast decision making is critical and necessary.
It gets more difficult when you add the daily dose of rivalry and competition amongst senior members all the way up to board members. Unfortunately, the leadership mindset in many industries is still “old-school,” where fighting over personal advantage is considered success and team-based decision-making is seen as a weakness. And if you then sprinkle this with the expectations of the millennial workforce on leadership — being motivated by visionary people, who inspire and serve as true role models — you realize pretty fast that it is difficult to live up to all these differing expectations.
Hardly any leader is well-trained on these dimensions, since all those skills are neither part of the curriculum at business school nor part of an established training program in the workplace to help leaders develop and prepare themselves accordingly.
Many leaders also miss support from their supervisors yet face unrealistic goals, which makes leading with vision and motivation even more difficult.
In short, expectations for leaders are high — and will be higher in the future. The digital economy, with its new millennial talent, diverse teams spread all over the world, need for fast decision-making based on data analytics, and full scope of digital products and services will demand even more from leadership teams. Below are three core competencies leaders must master in order to be effective today.
Core Ability #1: Master The Balancing Act
The competence to manage and guide through change is a core competence today. From a top-down perspective, leaders are expected to deal with high-pressure situations and still make the right decisions while helping their direct reports adjust and anticipate the future — a balancing act for which one needs training. But not “training” in the classical setting of a short offsite leadership seminar. Rather, a professional, business-experienced coach or mentor is needed for regular support and consulting. Companies can also support growing leaders by offering a monthly peer group where employees can share experiences and learn from each other. This can have a significant impact on mastering the balancing act required by leaders today.
Core Ability #2: Walk And Talk
In addition to driving organizational change, a leader’s ability to collaborate and to successfully communicate with different stakeholders is critical. Times are gone when single fighters made it to the top. To jointly achieve bigger goals in a team effort and to ensure a communicative and participative leadership style are what organizations need to train and coach the next generation of leaders in. If leaders continue to rush from meeting to meeting, are out on lunch appointments, barely prepared for annual employee reviews, and lock themselves in their beautiful corner office for most of the day, they will never get a true feeling for what’s going on with their people. Make time on a leader’s agenda to work with and get to know his or her team members, understand what drives and motivates them, and then take it from there.
Core Ability #3: Mix The Formats
Without a doubt, the requirements leaders face in the digital future are beyond what they learn at any good business school. And in many cases, those unforeseen real-life situations account for the biggest lessons learned. How can leaders prepare for those? How can leaders learn?
By mixing formats.
Yes, make sure your leaders understand the basics and the “theory,” which you can provide in off-site training or online courses. But also make sure that your leaders then get access to experienced coaches or mentors who help them apply what they’ve learned to real business environments.
In conclusion, by making sure that your high potentials have access to mentors, allowing your leaders to schedule more people-time into their calendars, and mixing learning formats, your organization will be better prepared for future success and profits.
Michaela Lindinger is CEO and Founder of brain in spa, an employee experience company for Millennials’ high performance and health in the digital economy.