In a world where uncertainty has become the norm and resources are increasingly scarce, the leader of today and tomorrow will have to be both responsible and innovative.
In sketching the portrait of such a leader, it is helpful to use a metaphor from the building trade – a sector that has always combined both long- and short-term perspectives.
The responsible and innovative leader is a planner.
As a planner, you must understand environmental mega-trends and disruptive patterns. You then anticipate and influence the reactions of key internal and external stakeholders to define a relevant future.
This ability to project a company over the medium- and long-term is only possible when leadership has a deep awareness of the company’s strengths and weaknesses and tries to proactively shape the environment in which it evolves.
The responsible and innovative leader is then an architect.
As an architect, you must be able to see both the individual features and the overall structure of your work; you must know how to go from a detailed perspective to a global view. You should understand the thought patterns, tools and codes of the various functions of the company.
The strategy that emerges must aim to create value for the company, its shareholders and its employees – and also for society as a whole. Only "sustainable" constructions have a positive environmental impact.
A 21st century leader also takes on the role of prime contractor.
Most strategies fail because they are not implemented effectively or because resources are not properly allocated to key initiatives. As the leader and project manager, you must define the issues on which the organisation focuses its energy and resources. You must instil a culture of innovation, cross-functional cooperation and initiative.
To do this, you need to know how to design organisational models that allow the structure, strategy, business model, skills and evaluation system to be aligned and integrated. You mobilise teams as well as organise and give impetus to talent development.
You play all three roles with integrity, humility and openness onto the world.
As a true leader, you’re aware that you embody the company and its behaviours. Your attitudes will be scrutinised and commented on throughout the world. You should strive to be an inspiration both directly and indirectly.
Managing different timeframes, navigating in an ambiguous and unstable world, being a responsible actor, rethinking approaches to the digital age – these are the challenges of our leader builder!
William Hurst, VP Executive Education