As leaders these five things matter now

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I recall when I started reading Gary Hamel’s book What Matters Now I didn’t make it past the Preface before he had provoked in me to think more deeply about what really does matter now in business. Today I had occasion to go back to those pages. He raises several areas worthy of consideration by anyone in an organisation that has leadership accountability in an organisation.

Right now business Values matter more than ever before. It may be a generalisation but today companies are amongst our least trusted institutions. While many overseas examples are so often cited we are not immune in Australia. In recent memory is the Commonwealth Bank financial planning debacle, and throw in for good measure the various Royal Commissions and ICAC inquiries currently in progress. Given we operate in a free market there will always be temptation; I am not sure about your perspective as a reader but it seems to me unprincipled behaviour by leaders is increasing not decreasing. If my sense is right then across the world business needs to undergo a “moral renaissance”.

It was Charles Darwin who said “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”  Gordon Moore, Intel co-founder, provided us with this insight as far back as 1970 when he correctly predicted that the number of transistors on a CPU would double every two years . Did we heed the principle in his message?  Today change is accelerating yet so much of the change we are asked to assist organisations with is crisis driven, and poorly led and managed.  As leaders we must find ways to get ahead of the curve and stay there.  The capacity of our organisations, and us as leaders, to adapt in a planned and sustained way lies at the essence of what must be done.

Is Gary Hamel right when he says “there is not one company in a hundred that has made innovation everyone’s job, every day.”  Why is it when products and strategies are so easily replicated and there is so much written about the need for and importance of innovation it is still lacking in so many organisations? Gary Hamel believes it is because there is a gap between words and action.

We agree because we find in our work assisting organisations to move to an innovative culture the resistance is high because values, structure, systems and behaviours are too slow to change.  Here are just a couple of examples relating to each: when it comes to Values, risk averseness is valued ahead of courage and risk taking, and stability is valued ahead of curiosity.  Structures are still heavily biased towards bureaucracy (control, hierarchy, formality) instead of meritocracy (initiative, contribution, achievement).  Systems are not open to challenge to ensure ‘breakthrough’ thinking is encouraged.  Finally when it comes to behaviour some of the more blatant examples we see are competition instead collaboration, finding reasons why something won’t work is the starting point rather than working to find out what’s needed to make it work.

Is it any wonder that passion is snuffed out in an instant by leaders working hard to retain the status quo?

When you boil it right down, as leaders we are accountable for living our organisation’s Values by behaving in ways that are not open to question, developing the culture that brings out the passion in our people, to do the right thing by our clients and other stakeholders.  To ensure we operate using better business principles that promote innovation and encourage us to adapt in an environment of continuous and disruptive change. Gary Hamel is right – as leaders this is what matters now .

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.