The Leadership Challenges every CEOs face today

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson

Management Guru and consultant Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book “ What got you here won’t get you there’, precisely sending a bold message to the corporate world that the old tricks may not be best suited to today’s ever changing business landscape. They need to learn and unlearn more even just to keep up.

The leadership challenges of today are different from the challenges in the past. We are living in a global economy. Competition is severe. Everything is changing faster. The survival of the fittest is determined by who can adapt faster and innovate better.

In a complex business environment leaders must develop a broad range of skills and business acumen at various levels. In my experience, working with corporate executives who represent small and bigger firms, I have identified few leadership challenges they all face in common. They are:

  1. Not able to convey the vision to the rest of the team.

Some CEOs have no long-term vision. They surely know what they are working on but they don’t know what they are working towards. They are too caught up in dealing with yesterday’s problems, so much that they can’t hardly focus on what tomorrow might bring.

On the other hand, even if the CEOs do have a strong vision, they find it hard to convey the same to the rest of the team members. Often their vision statement stays on paper and less in action. Here, the CEOs lack the ability and action to communicate the vision to the rest of the group. Therefore the employees have no clue about where their organization or their career is headed.

Great leadership is the ability to inspire people and pass on the vision to the followers. When leaders achieve this task, they not only have clarity on what they are doing but also transform the employees into a group of entrepreneurs.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t want to be led or managed by anyone. They just want to be inspired by someone they can trust their future with.

  1. The Innovator’s Dilemma.

One of the prime tasks of a leader today is to lead their organization to the future. As leaders, it is a human tendency to be stuck up on ones own past success rather than focusing on something new and exciting. Chewing on past glory can be tragic for future affairs.

The innovator’s dilemma happens when you stick with what made you successful for too long. The biggest threat for most of the future success is the reminiscence of the past success. Things change too soon even before we realize its entry. For example, Blackberry thought that they could sustain their smart phone revolution for many years. Blackberry’s exclusive BBM service (instant messaging service) was disrupted by the introduction of the ‘Whatsup’ application. Whatsup democratized an exclusive service that was quite a competitive advantage of Blackberry for some time. Similarly Kodak Film thought that they could sustain the photography business amidst the digital disruption. Kodak not only ignored the exponential growth of digital camera technology but also the advent of applications like the ‘Instagram’. As a result Kodak has become history.

Some leaders tend to believe that the present success is here to stay for long. They ignore the hard trends that can wipe out their business completely assuming that new trends are nothing but hype.

What has worked for your success in the past need not guarantee you much success in the future. Today CEOs must worry about innovation, their own and others. The truth of the matter is that, if you are not planning for the next big game changer, you will be disrupted sooner or later. You can’t afford to miss out on the big picture here. To gain better perspective, leaders must learn to balance between continuous improvements of innovation with discontinuous improvements of radical changes.

CEOs who are risk averse tend to avoid radical innovations. They wait to see how others are doing. Sometimes on the waiting game leaders miss the bus- an opportunity to be a pioneer at something rather than being a follower.

  1. Losing out on the Competitive Advantage.

Many business would have enjoyed their monopoly in the past being a market leader or a pioneer in the business. But this is not the case today. Competition is mushrooming from every angle. Technology is enabling smaller companies to take on the big ones. What you once claimed as your USP (Unique Selling Point) is no more yours alone. Your competition is selling at low prices, claiming to give better service and product quality.

For leaders, it’s very important to differentiate their business constantly from their competition. As the world becomes more complex and technology disrupts old ways of doing things, businesses have to evolve their offerings and provide more value to their clients. Therefore to gain a unique advantage over others, leaders must constantly focus on innovation. Innovation can help you increase your market share, define new markets and gain and retain more customers.

  1. Not being able to retain the best people.

Most business owners complain about not getting the right talent for the job. Those who have the talent, hesitate to train their talent. Because they fear that their competition will poach their skilled employees sooner or later. Having this fear, some leaders stress less on talent development and more on squeezing unskilled work force.

To succeed in today’s volatile markets, you need the support of a great team. Building and sustaining a great team is a big challenge for many leaders today. Some leaders suspect that the smart employees are always in the look out for better opportunities and higher pay. Therefore making them smarter does not help. Due to this wrong notion, retaining key players and attracting great talent has become a challenge for many CEOs to grow their businesses.

The secret to attracting and retaining great talent does not mean providing big fat checks or incentives to your employees. Talents are attracted to working for a company, which is promising a great work culture. For example, Google gets over a million unsolicited resumes every year. People are not queuing up to work for a search engine firm. Clearly they are attracted to the great work culture Google has. Employee empowering work culture not only attracts more talent but also retain the best employees. Ultimately people want to belong to a great tribe. They want to be appreciated for their contributions and want to feel alive. Culture, therefore is the best intrinsic motivation ever. It is better than strategy.A strong corporate culture fuels everything you do. Having the right feeling and energy in your organization can enhance every investment you make. Contrary to popular belief, this is not strictly in the realm of human resource. The right tone has to be set by the CEO himself.

It’s the leaders responsibility to build a workplace that will have a great culture were employees are kicked about working. Great work cultures always help their employees to be at their best. Zig Ziglar aptly said “ You don’t build a business. You build people and then people build the business”.Remember, as a leader you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Find the right people, retain the right people, and empower them to give their best.

   5. Execution delay

One of the major responsibilities of the CEO is to execute ideas, plans and strategies. Often the responsibility of execution is passed on to the managers. In most cases, the managers will take on the new assignment with great enthusiasm but the drive is tending to fade away. In most cases the ideas are not executed as per the plans. Delay, procrastination, obstacles, undue interventions and excuses delay execution. Again the same ideas are discussed in routine meetings hoping for another execution time line. Even though the leaders try harder to keep their team agile, the execution often takes more time than previously planned. This will make projects even more frustrating for its leaders.

What leaders need to enforce is the execution discipline of getting things done. Leaders must help the followers to prioritize on the majors. Better priority management will help people to achieve more productivity with fewer hassles. Often people mistake movement for achievement. Just being busy is not productivity. It’s the results that will count ultimately. Therefore the leaders must stress on outcome rather than activities.






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