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Leadership in tough times

The recent Leaders in London event brought together some great business leaders (e.g. Jack Welch & Muhammad Yunus) and inspired speakers (e.g. Rudy Giuliani & Carly Fiorina) to share their thoughts on the main topic du-jour for most CxOs, i.e. how to lead their organization through the current economic crises.

This two day event, chaired by author / business guru, Rene Carayol, succeeded in delivering immense value to attendees, (ranging from newly minted MBAs to seasoned CEOs), and included additional master-class days by business thought leaders like Dan Pink and Daniel Goleman. Key messages from my attendance on day two includes:

  • The former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, emphasized that the role of leadership in times of crises was about motivating people, fostering & recognizing teamwork, and remaining visibly present and optimistic even during the toughest of times.
  • Legendary CEO, Jack Welch, gave a moderated interview / Q&A session, (via satellite link), with his classic forthright opinion on a variety of topics e.g.: the current economic crisis (a breakdown in the financial industry); management theory (only pundits think new management models are the answer); and emerging markets like Nigeria (challenged young leaders to change the game). I could not resist asking if there were any applicable lessons to be learnt from the recording industry’s own crises. His answer: It was caused by technology innovation; therefore need to respond with innovation, in the business model.
  • Richard Reed, Co-Founder of Innocent Drinks, described their journey from start-up to becoming a successful company with firm values of fun, sustainability and focus on doing one thing well.
  • Inspirational leadership helped retired US Naval Commander, Captain Michael Abrashoff, to turn his ship from the worst to best performing ship in the US Pacific fleet. His mantra: give up control, achieve command.
  • Prof. Vijay Govindarajan (Tuck Business School) stated that organizational strategies should be focused on creating “next practice”, and not adopting current best practice. Also that strategy architecture should address five key areas of: non-linear shifts, strategic intent, core competencies, growth playbook and new competencies
  • According to Prof. Gary Hamel, (London Business School), management has stopped evolving and most companies now have more or less the same management models. His hierarchy of desirable management outcomes covers traditional qualities like: Obedience, Diligence and Intellect, as well as the emerging need to inspire Initiative, Creativity and Passion in employees.

Overall, this was one heck of an event, even if only for the quality of invited speakers, but the key message from most of the sessions I attended was about the critical value of inspiration and motivation as the best way for leaders to engage people into delivering above and beyond the call of duty, particularly in these most turbulent of times.


Note: Originally posted on Capgemini’s Technology blog.  You can see the original post, including comments, at: http://www.capgemini.com/technology-blog/2008/12/leadership_in_tough_times.php

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