If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—
the readiness is all. (Hamlet – Act 5, Scene 2)
During an unexpected, unpredictable, and now extended global economic tsunami, many executives have invested so much energy in disaster preparedness they’ve lost sight of the importance of opportunity readiness. Since school districts tacked an extra week on Spring Break in March to accommodate what we thought was a public health blip, CEOs leading organizations of all sizes have rightly focused time, energy, and resources on helping their companies and those they lead navigate the uncertainty, relentless change, annoying distractions, and like-it-or-not demand for attention COVID-19 has unloaded on the world. As businesses adapt to current realities and craft new strategies for the present, it is time for senior leaders to focus some attention on their personal preparedness for what’s ahead.
Surveys reveal an alphabet soup view of what people think the future will look like. Some CEOs anticipate a U-shaped recovery while others see an L or W-shaped journey ahead. Perhaps it is best to not look for a recovery at all, instead charting a path to readiness for the future without preconceptions that whatever is ahead will resemble what we knew before.
A seismic shift in the business environment will likely perpetuate a parallel adjustment in the top leadership in organizations as boards recognize the capabilities they looked for in the C-team pre-COVID 19 are not the skills required to succeed in the unprecedented market shifts we are experiencing and will face in the months (and possibly years) ahead.
Surveys by major consulting firms underscore this anticipated talent transformation. Boston Consulting Group found “. . . more than 80% of surveyed CFOs also see transformative change—for example, in their organization, in digital, or in innovation—as a strategic opportunity. (Boston Consulting Group, CFO Pulse Check #2). Boards now face the decision to rely on current leaders to drive needed transformation or to look outside the company for another skill set or someone with a different vision for the future.
If boards listen to voices beyond their circle, the likelihood they will consider new leadership is multiplied. McKinsey stated, “Our research has also shown that CEOs who are hired externally tend to move with more boldness and speed than those hired within an organization, (McKinsey, The CEO Moment: Leadership for a New Era).The demand for boldness and speed may drive a need to consider talent from another industry or situation.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger aptly noted, “The historic challenge for leaders is to manage the crisis while building the future.” As C-level leaders manage themselves for the future, it’s time to stop adjusting and begin anticipating. Forward-thinking executives will find a way to clearly articulate a differentiated message in a distinct voice and tone, that can be heard above the cacophony of uncertainty whirling around us.
First century poet Ovid said the one “who is not prepared today will be less so tomorrow.” As you lead your organization through today’s challenges, invest some time in preparing for tomorrow’s opportunities.
Copyright © 2021 Leapfrog Executive Services. Republished with permission.
Leadership Consultant, EDA, Inc.
Joe Jordan is a Consultant with EDA. Throughout a career that has included a diverse group of companies and industries, Joe has integrated business development and sales roles with corporate training and operations positions, giving him a unique blend of strengths in designing and implementing initiatives that develop talent in leaders, grow revenue, enhance customer relationships, and improve business processes.
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