How do you be your best to deliver over the long term for your people and your company?
As the marketplace continues to grow in complexity and credible competitive threats emerge rapidly, there is a significant challenge for senior leaders to be well positioned to successfully lead a company for the long term.
Over the last several decades it has been clear that large multi-national companies have been challenged to keep pace with the innovation being driven by the early & middle markets of high growth industries like technology and healthcare. As a result, large multi-national companies have accelerated their business development activities and aggressively funded their own corporate venture capital funds to secure external innovation as a more efficient and effective method of capital allocation compared to funding internally developed programs which have not kept pace with the external environment.
In the same construct that has driven large companies to go outside to find innovation, senior leaders, in order to remain at the top of their game and be positioned to successfully lead large companies in the future, need to access external support for learning and growth. Leveraging a combination of traditional internal training/development support with elements of external support will help senior leaders keep pace with some of the skills and experiences being gained by leaders in the more innovative, early stage environments of high growth industries.
Below are a few ideas for external support that have been proven helpful to senior leaders maintain their competitive edge in dynamic markets:
Hire an external strategic advisor and/or leadership coach.
In addition to product innovation coming out of venture capital funded start-ups across the world is the attitude that “everyone needs a coach.” Top VC firms often require C-Suite leaders of businesses they fund to have access to an external coach. Over the last 3+ decades of building companies, they have consistently seen the value of leaders having someone external to day to day operations providing insight and support to help leaders be their best. There is a measurable and significant missed opportunity in large companies not assigning independent, one on one, outside advisors to the company’s senior leaders.
Be proactive and intentional in about sitting on the boards of industry trade groups, university tech transfer advisory roles, and participation in early stage industry events.
One of the many challenges faced by senior leaders is that large companies have a tremendous gravitational pull to remain inside the four walls of the organization. To stay current on the corporate vernacular, the political environment, not to mention the day to day activities of getting work done, can create a huge challenge for leaders to get an outside perspective or fresh ideas for the business.
The cost of giving in to the company’s strong gravitational pull and staying too internally focused is leaders will not be well versed in emerging skills and innovations that will be essential to keeping the company growing over the long term. Senior leaders need to be proactive and intentional about gaining exposure to the outside industry world through trade groups, tech transfer departments within universities, and early stage investment forums to ensure they are learning and growing at the pace of their peers on the outside. With current efficient access to various online forums, LinkedIn professional groups, and other industry forums there are opportunities that can be accessed efficiently and cost effectively to broaden a leader’s experience.
Routinely attend traditional one/two-week programs at some of the leading business schools in the US and overseas.
Leading business schools offer some great programs on leadership topics, specific commercial focused programs, and entrepreneurship programs that can result in a step function of growth in leader’s development. These programs are taught by the current thought-leaders of our time and can provide tremendous insight to a leader in a short, focused program format. Quite often, leaders return refreshed and energized with some new ideas to tackle the everyday challenges of leading teams and delivering results. In addition, the connections and networking with other industry leaders that are established in these programs can prove to be fruitful to support the company’s growth initiatives.
Today’s senior leaders are faced with the challenging of leading the business today while preparing to deliver long term growth in a marketplace that is rapidly changing. Today’s operational plans could be obsolete in delivering value in the future. Gaining consistent external experience and outside advice to compliment a company’s internal development plans will best position senior leaders to be successful in the future.
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