According to The Peter Principle, people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "highest level of incompetence": employees are promoted/hired based on their success in previous jobs/stints until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job or role do not necessarily translate to another.
So, the big question is - can today’s star performers be tomorrow’s leaders or will they turn out to be just today’s solutions but translating into tomorrow’s problems?
Past success is not a guarantee for future performance, says the disclaimer in fine print of investment products, and rightly so. When organisations hire people based on their past performance, they make an investment in the individual’s capability to bring success to their organisation. However, sometimes past performers fail to deliver under new circumstances as they lack the intrinsic skills required to be a successful leader.
In the brave new world, it becomes even more pertinent to choose the right leaders who can, not only survive effortlessly, but thrive with passion, compassion and enthusiasm.
What we don’t know is what usually gets us killed
If today’s star performers do not fully understand the complexities of the business, or worse, fail to identify, accept and work up on their individual development needs, they will unknowingly set themselves up for failure.
We live in an era of disruption. An era marked by globalization, competition, digital transformation, agility & innovation. Mega trends like ecommerce, social media, cloud, big data which were considered as new megatrends are now being replaced by even newer megatrends like BlockChain, AI, Robotics and IoT, all in less than a decade.
For today’s achievers to become successful in the future as well, they need to understand the market challenges and changed rules of management.
- Market Challenges
- Greater competitive intensity
- Increasing use of technology
- Substitutions/innovations by competitors
- Cost/availability of talent
- Increasing number of markets served
- Increasingly sophisticated consumers
- Growing number of regulations
- Greater geopolitical risk
Changed rules of management
- Ability to lead through more complexity and ambiguity – Success shall come to those who learn to thrive in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world.
- Foster Entrepreneurial mindset - Exhibit Speed in times of uncertainty, exhibit Humility and demonstrate Resilience in times of setbacks & failures.
- Break away from Comfort Zone – No matter how many books you read on ‘how to swim’, real learning takes place when you literally get into the water.
- Invent the Future - "Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, do change the world. " - Steve Jobs. Do not ponder over past failures, invest in the future.
- Maintain transparency - This one is true not only for today’s performers and tomorrow's leaders but also for the organisations as well.
- Pace of change – this demands leaders to work more closely with one another to be able to come up with integrated solutions in a more rapidly changing environment.
- Look for support - Don't try to become a one person army, it doesn’t achieve anything. Being conscious about one's vulnerability is important.
- Collaborate with Customers – The boundaries between clients, partners and vendors are getting blurred each passing day. Leverage data, plan a joint strategy and win the market.
- Strategic Agility – This one is my top favourite. Fail fast, learn from the failure, review the strategy, re-plan and re-start. Include the chance of failure and rebuilding as part of a strategy to quickly overcome trauma of setback. ‘Speed’ is the new engine of business and ‘quick & right decision making’ is its fuel.
How to identify future leaders from today’s star performers?
There is no winning formula to accomplish it. A general bias is to choose on the basis of “culture fit” approach deploying traditional methods like checking for ‘leadership style’, ‘team fit’, ‘good listening skills’, ‘collaborative approach’, ‘goes by just gut feeling or involves analytics as well’, etc. The shortcoming of the traditional approach is that it often results in a lack of diversity and outdated leadership models.
In normal circumstances, only the ‘culture fit’ approach would have sufficed but in today’s ever changing world, businesses are expected to grow as fast as the technologies surrounding them. What worked in the past and what is working in the present may not work at all in the future. Companies, then, need to get more comfortable thinking outside the box.
Hence, I strongly recommend to take an extra look at people with high potential and not just top performers
- “Mis-fits” or people who think differently
- “Not yet ready”: Analyze them on their ambition, reputation and passion for your business. Mark Zuckerberg is one such example, who had no business experience when he started ‘Facebook’ and yet became one of the most successful CEOs.
As long as today’s performers understand the importance of change, they stand a chance to grab that elusive opportunity to become great leaders of tomorrow.
“Change you resist is the growth you miss”