A Time for Flexible, Positive Leaders
As the world looks back to look ahead, nothing could ring more true today than Alvin Toffler‘s prophesy: “The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
As leaders in times such as these, we too have to “learn, unlearn and relearn” the principles of leadership and growth. To learn what went wrong, to unlearn the flawed policies of the past, and relearn the right way forward until we bring stability back to our businesses and to our economy.
There is no doubt that it is going to be a long haul, and global corporate leadership must have the stomach for a fight to regain its battered pinnacle. At a fundamental level, we need to learn patience and persistence.
Navigating our businesses through this storm will often take a contrarian stand. We will to unlearn the need to keep up with the Joneses. As we swim against the occasional cross currents of opinion, we need to keep the faith — for ‘business as usual’ will not work in unusual times.
Innovative and perhaps inorganic growth strategies will be required to grow against the tide. Rather than developing cold feet amidst the freezing rain of pessimism, it is essential we invest in the right areas at the right time. Most importantly, we need to build our future with conviction. We need to ask ourselves: “What is right for my company in the present circumstances?” And then forge ahead on that path even, though it may not be right for others. As a case in point, in the recent Axon acquisition by HCL, analysts warned us that such a large commitment may be too risky in a slowdown. But we went ahead, choosing to differentiate between traditional risk mitigation and risk for growth.
Irrespective of the path we choose, there will be challenges en route. It is therefore critical to instill belief and optimism in our teams so they stay undeterred in the face of obstacles. In fact, a recent leadership survey by the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) at Duke University revealed that demonstrating optimism and enthusiasm is considered one of five vital leadership skills. Perhaps we could benefit by relearning some common sense principles we have followed while charting our individual success routes:
Be Positive A lot of people will ask difficult questions and predict a gloomy tomorrow based on pre-conceived notions. Tough as it may seem, you have to believe in the tomorrow that you have set out to build.
Life Is a Grab Bag …and often not even as delectable as a box of chocolates. More than anything else, the need of the hour is a calm mind that can resist getting over-excited about the good or despondent about the bad.
Be Organized If ever there was a time to focus sharply on the ‘urgent and important’ and leave the non-critical issues for next quarter, it is now.
Be Reassuring There will be fears, uncertainties, doubts and suspicions. It is for us to be reassuring at every step of the way.
We can be sure that not everything will be smooth sailing. There are bound to be setbacks. The test will be to see who can handle setbacks with maturity without getting derailed — these are the ones who will emerge as the successful leaders of tomorrow.
Originally posted on Vineet Nayar’s Blog site on Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2009/02/learn-unlearn-and-relearn