Do leadership lessons stand the test of time and space?
Bill Manson, Director Podiem, compares and contrasts global lessons with local insights
In preparing for a new client, I recently revisited a McKinsey Quarterly paper entitled Leadership Lessons in Hard Times (July 2009) to see if those lessons still hold some truth. The paper was developed by McKinsey as a result of interviews with 14 major business figures in global organisations.
It caused me to reflect that over the past 6 months, through Podiem and MLN, I have had the enormous privilege of working with and hearing from a similar number of key business leaders, primarily in the local arena, with a few international authorities thrown in for good measure. As a consequence of revisiting the paper I was drawn to the question ……
So do these lessons hold true and have they any relevance to us in NI in 2013?
In essence, I have to say there are enormous similarities between the lessons in the McKinsey paper and the insights provided by our local leaders. Here are the key lessons with quotes from some of the leaders of these global giants.
Always question whether the “halo effect” of a business or business situation is blinding you to what lies on the horizon.
Herbert Henkel, Chairman and CEO of Ingersoll Rand
At board meetings, put strategy centre stage
The board has been heavily involved in strategy formulation with me, and we have a better strategy because of it.
Bill Nuti, chairman and CEO of NCR
Be transparent with employees . . .
The only way to address uncertainty is to communicate and communicate. And when you think you’ve just about got to everybody, then communicate some more.
Terry Lundgren, Chairman, President, and CEO of Macy’s
. . . and investors
Our policy is: “If in doubt, communicate.” We always want to conduct our business with integrity and forthrightness.
Ron Sugar, Chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman
Build and protect the culture
Stay focused on culture, people, and values: it’s the area most likely to get compromised in this environment.—
Eric Foss, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi Bottling Group
Keep faith with the future
If you don’t invest in the future and don’t plan for the future, there won’t be one.
George Buckley, Chairman, President, and CEO of 3M
Having listened to the likes of local leaders Bill McGinnis CBE (Chair, McAvoy Group), Patrick Hurst MBE (MD, Whalepumps), Brian Ambrose OBE (Chief Executive, George Best Belfast City Airport), Joanne Grant (MD, JCDecaux), Feargal McCormack (MD, FPM Accounting), Judith Gillespie (Deputy Chief Constable, PSNI), Terence Brannigan (Chair, Maze Long Kesh), Nigel Dunlop (MD, Moy Park) and international authorities such as Hal Gregerson (INSEAD), Gareth Jones (London Business School) and Keith Grint (Warwick Business School), I have to conclude that these lessons are right on the money – even if the scale and the context differ greatly.
In contrast and perhaps in semantics only, I would summarise the key local messages I have heard under the following 5 points below
1. Recognise you have hard decisions to take, get the data - and make them quickly.
2. Revisit and challenge your strategy continuously – then make sure you have the people with the skills and capabilities to deliver it.
3. Communicate with all your stakeholders and find out who can contribute to or add value to your business (employees, investors, supply chain, partners, customers and clients).
4. Do business based on your values and build a culture that is adaptable to change – adapt or die!
5. We don’t know the future but we can help create it – get proactive with existing customers, make new relationships with potential customers, keep scanning the horizon and develop new products and services that provide solutions (even the ones your customers don’t know they need yet).
In terms of the last point I particularly liked the quote from Henry Ford “If I’d asked them what they would like they would have asked for faster horses!”
But if I reflect on the paper and what I have heard, there is no doubt that these lessons not only stand the test of time but are relevant to all businesses and business contexts. The fact that our local leaders are on top of this agenda is why they have continued success, despite the downturn. It is a tremendous affirmation to us that these folks are prepared to share their insights through MLN and keep us at the leading edge in leadership thinking.
So don’t fall in to the trap that “a prophet has no honour in his own land” but make sure you avail of the opportunity to gain such insights through attending the MLN Masterclasses and Business Briefings as well as the ezines.
Bill Manson has spent over 30 years in the area of management, leadership and organisational development at a local and international level and now through Podiem, consults to firms and organisations across the private, public and social economy sectors.
For more information on the topic of this article and the broader range of Podiem services contact 028 9076 1030 or by email.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute professional or other advice.