Why Leadership Is A Journey Not A Destination

To an earlier generation, Bob Dylan's music captured the leadership of the 1960s, its hopes, its dreams, and its desire to remake the world into a better place. For Millennials, this is ancient history in the way living through the Depression was to Boomers.

Fast forward to 2015. The world is a vastly different place to anything we could have imagined. Some of it is amazing. However, many problems are still with us and some have become exacerbated. Think income inequality, race, war, and environmental degradation.

One of the drivers to our brave new world is the digital revolution. It has changed everything from the way we network, interact, create value, share, and solve problems. We donít work the same way nor do we lead teams as previous generations did. Technology has made it possible to create different business models. Just look at Snapchat.

This is the great paradox. It is easier to launch a new enterprise now than at any other time in history. The hunger for connectivity is exponential. Itís not just the Millennials. Itís everyone. If you were born before 1985, you watched as our world changed. Itís as if we were born before electric lights and along came Edison to light up our universe.

No matter which generation you belong to our challenge is not to be left behind. Leadership therefore, demands an understanding of shifting market trends and the ability to capture or better still, generate new trends. Here are some of keys:

The New Ideology
Although the customer has always been front and center of any business paradigm, the rules of engagement have changed. My colleague, James D. Roumeliotis, has been writing about this for years.

Because customers are better informed than ever before, they have become more discerning and more demanding. Anyone can broadcast their views to God knows how many social media channels in a flash. Bad service or poor products were never acceptable. That goes double time for today. Creating customer advocacy is a relatively new phenomenon and one that business leader must master. Think community engagement, the onslaught of blogging, and sharing. The hardest strategy is to remain focused because customer advocacy is multi-dimensional.

As another colleague of ours points out at RedHerring, even a toothpaste brand must have a soul. Itís no longer about cleaning your teeth.

Constant Reinvention
Since our world continues to change at lightening speed, it can be quite challenging to managing what one advocate refers to as disruption. Innovation causes disruption and sweeps everyone in its path. Others will copy and a new standard comes into place.

The case of Blackberry is iconic. It set the proverbial standard until Apple created the touch screen iPhone. Millenials live on their smartphones. Mobile apps have altered communications, the way we shop, buy, and sell products and services. Google has even re-calibrated its algorithm to favor mobile handsets.

Digital enablement continues to feed the fire of change. In a recent interview, Evan Spiegel revealed, ďI want to make it easier for brands to be brands.Ē Given the nature of his leadership and vision you are now witnessing how this generation wants to further reshape the world in which we live. In retrospect, he makes Facebook appear as a stick in the mud. The takeaway here is you will need to restructure the way your venture communicates sooner than you think and more often than you ever imagined.


The Power Of Culture
Culture has always mattered. The challenge is that now we live in a world both online and off of intersecting identities and allegiances. Customer culture must reflect these dynamics. For leadership to thrive, trust must be established.

If you make the customer the center of your corporate agenda, then you have made him or her the final judge on what your firm produces or serves, unless of course, you are the trendsetter. Think of the entrepreneurial and business icon of this generation: Steve Jobs. He started a revolution of giving people things they never knew they needed and can no longer live without. He also taught this generation a new brand of leadership with a focus on how to be iconoclastic.

When I look back at the customer service culture CAREO created, naysayers said why did we give clients so much free time? Why did we put them at the center of our enterprise? We did so because to us, this venture was always more than a business. It was a way to invest in the dreams of others and help them make their aspirations a reality. Was this easy? If you have tried this, then you know the answer. It is constant hard work. But then again, leadership demands that you stand by your core beliefs, build trust, and to be responsive. In our view, involvement must be total.

Why Innovation Is Essential
Innovation is a term often misunderstood. A superficial understanding pegs this word to technology and science alone. This is only a small part of the equation. Real innovation also must call into play creativity and a revolutionary change in human behavior to instill personal growth and positive outcomes. This is a road less travelled because it demands something most people feel uncomfortable with: authenticity.

People feel that if I am too authentic than I am too personal. Itís this side of business that builds trust. Most organizations demand compliance not creativity or authenticity. You can identify these firms without a problem. They are ruled by an accountantís mentality. These are the bottom line data driven nerds who took the word human out of human resources. In their lexicon, resources are to be used, i.e. expendable components in a machine to be exploited.

From our perspective, anyone can be an innovator. You just need the right culture for it to prosper. Empowering people and valuing their performance will certainly heighten your brand and it will also get you the commitment every firm needs to really thrive. So what are we implying?

Create a true learning environment. Encourage risks. Applaud boldness. Celebrate humanity. Millennials intuitively know this, which is why they are rejecting the business vision of their predecessors. Will they become better leaders? It is hard to know. Time will be the judge. For those of us in leadership roles today, we have the benefit of hindsight. Make your journey all it is worth and leave a legacy where people are truly valued. As a great sage once stipulated, ďLife is a journey, not a destinationÖĒ

Article Title: Why Leadership Is A Journey Not A Destination
Photographs: curated by ES

About The Author
Andrew Scharf shares enchanting stuff on the topics of marketing, innovation, talent development, coaching, enchantment, and craftsmanship. He is also the head Koi at CAREO, a career management consultancy under the WCW Group brand.

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