Enterprise Leadership: New leadership for a new world

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on May 4, 2021. 

Today’s leaders are being asked to simultaneously run the business and change the business. But Korn Ferry research shows that only 14% of leaders have what it takes.

CEOs today are leading in a world moving through crisis and disruption—where challenges have no known solutions, or if they do, there are far too many choices and few clear ones. Yet even while driving change amidst all this uncertainty, they need to keep the trains running on time.

This expectation that CEOs will transform the business while they maintain strong performance is not exactly new; it’s a trend that has been on an upward trajectory for years. But the current landscape has only accelerated this need. Keep employees safe or maintain efficient operations. Seek big and bold ideas or continue with the current strategy. Scale the company or focus on the core customer.

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Becoming a Leader: 6 Ideas for Today’s World

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on April 29, 2021.

Becoming a better leader normally involves, well, being a leader. Indeed, most leadership experts say about 70% of learning and development comes from challenging assignments that force leaders to learn new skills. The rest of that development usually involves hours of training seminars, working with coaches, and dedicating oneself to become more self-aware, mindful, and reflective.

In a pandemic, of course, much of that training wasn’t possible. But the skill sets for being a strong leader—of a team, a department, or an entire company—couldn’t have been more in demand, and still are. Only these days, leadership-building advice has been shifting, with greater emphasis on careful listening, more transparency, and greater probing. Below, a host of our tips—some fairly standard, some unorthodox—to grow into a better leader.

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Learning Agility from the Inside Out

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on April 14, 2021.  

Agile learners are hungry for more. More knowledge. More experiences. More skills.

These learners find lessons in everything they do. They are endlessly curious—relentless in their pursuit of new facts and information. They take risks, both big and small, exploring new and novel situations. They look back on those experiences, with mindfulness and intention, applying what they’ve learned to future events.

Curiosity, risk-taking, and reflection are central to Learning Agility. People who are highly learning agile have a sense of wonder, a readiness to seek out the unfamiliar, and an ability to unpack this new knowledge in actionable ways. And in today’s ever-evolving, ever-challenging business landscape, these qualities are in great demand, seen increasingly as critical to a company’s success.

Yet, although Learning Agility as a construct is nothing new, learning agile leaders are still in low supply. For decades, organizations have tried to develop a more agile workforce, with talent flexing and strengthening their Learning Agility muscles through stretch assignments and high-stakes turnarounds. But, experts say, the challenges of recent years have created a new dilemma: agile leaders are needed more today than ever before, yet in a world that’s much more digital and much more insulated, the traditional ways of developing agility may no longer be enough.

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The Purpose Principle: Gifts, Grow, Give

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on his Forbes blog:  Pause Point on April 7, 2021. 

Purpose inspires the unmet longing of humans to make a significant difference in the lives of people. Korn Ferry Institute research on consumer products companies indicates just how much purpose actually powers performance. Comparing “average purpose-driven” companies to “highly purpose-driven” consumer companies, we found four times the revenue growth over a three year period.

As leaders we have a responsibility to address this significant question: “Why is it so important that we exist?” With this question, we courageously face who we are and how we are in the world. As the battle rages for the soul of capitalism, we need to pause on a few questions: Will we define business solely in terms of transactional financial levers, designed to accumulate capital, or will we apply our vision to shape business as a more universal lever that serves a higher, more sustainable purpose? Will the top two percent serve the 98 percent, or will the top two percent dominate, control, and be served by the 98 percent? When will we elevate from enterprise success to ecosystem sustainability? What is a new, broader definition of value creation that can endure?

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Soul Searching

By Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.  Originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute

Another year has passed me by…
And I’m still in the dark
‘Cause I can’t seem to find the light alone

– “Man in the Wilderness,” by Styx

We’re at the 11th hour of the 11th month of a year like no other. From time to time, the sentiment for all of us has been, “What else could 2020 possibly bring?” During those times, we are like that person in the wilderness—wandering along, never quite knowing why—trying to make sense of it all.

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Election Wrap: 5 Takeaways for Leaders

Originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute

Help show workers how to overcome instead being overwhelmed. Find areas where there are connections, not division. And do what leaders always should do: inspire.

In the wake of a week that has shown how divided the country remains in the political arena, business chiefs find themselves looking for ways to focus all the energy Americans put into the election back into the workplace. Reviving the troops, so to speak, is never easy in years when the Oval Office is at stake. But it’s even more of a challenge amid the unprecedented events of 2020.

It is possible, though. At least, that’s what leadership books and studies have been saying for decades. Looking for ideas relevant to the current times, we spoke with some Korn Ferry experts after Tuesday’s historic vote, discussing leadership, engagement, and inclusion. Here are five actions they suggested.

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Becoming a More Patient Leader

By David Sluss.  Originally posted to Harvard Business Review on September 2, 2020. 

Leading effectively — especially during a crisis — takes patience. If you can’t retain your composure in the face of frustration or adversity, you won’t be able to keep others calm. When your direct reports show signs of strain, you need to support them, not get irritated. Solutions to new challenges usually take time to put into practice.

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Why Vulnerability Is A CEO’s Secret Weapon

Why Vulnerability Is A CEO’s Secret Weapon

The 8 Behaviours of World-Class Leaders During Crisis

In a stunningly short time, demand for her firm’s multibillion-dollar product had dropped almost in half. And almost as quickly, the call for many inside the company was to act fast and preserve as much capital as possible. It was the standard reaction multiplied many times by a global pandemic—save all that is left for better times.

Yet this CEO saw things differently. Cutbacks were made, of course. But instead of purely hunkering down, she directed the teams to work on finding new efficiencies for the product, create new services for customers, and streamline operations. The goal: yes, wait for better times, but give the company an edge for when demand inevitably returns.

In today’s remarkably rough times, with the global coronavirus outbreak upending the modern world as we know it, everyone is dealing with their own challenges. And that certainly includes the world’s chief executive officers. It is these leaders who must keep their organisations afloat. It is they who must inspire people to innovate and try to preserve as many jobs as possible. And while these CEOs are balancing so many impossible dilemmas—what suppliers to pay, what factories to keep open—they must carry the burden of their own uncertainties as well as those of the thousands of workers for whom they bear responsibility.

“It’s something that nearly everyone we’re working with is wrestling with,” says Kevin Cashman, Korn Ferry’s global leader of CEO and Executive Development. “It has never been tougher.”

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The Courageous Life Podcast

Kevin was recently interviewed by Joshua Steinfeldt on his podcast, The Courageous Life, on topics ranging from the importance of purpose and authenticity, how to inspire through storytelling, Leading from the Inside Out, and why courage may be the most important trait in leadership.

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