Leadership in the Time of the Re

June 09, 2020
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By Peter Tulau, Director at AltoPartners Australia

This article was first published via the AltoPartners Australia website, to view the original article click here

For MDs and CEOs leading their organisations beyond COVID, this is the time of the Re: review, reimagine, reinvest, and relaunch. But what about the executives tasked with conceptualising and executing the way forward? How adaptive will they prove to be? Are they aligned with each other and the forthcoming challenges? Will they thrive in the new normal? When it comes to the executive team, now is the time to also consider whether to revive, redeploy, reduce, or renew.

As Boards and CEOs survey the economic wreckage in the wake of the universal reality check, which was COVID, the spotlight is on executive capability, especially where competitors are regrouping quickly and reshaping their business models to stem revenue collapse and future-proof themselves as much as is possible.

Even allowing for industry differences, some clear themes are emerging when it comes to winners and losers. These include a much greater focus on horizon thinking; accelerating the evolution of digital and physical channels to market; the fusion of information and operational technologies and risk management in all its forms. This is all taking place against a backdrop of increased competitive awareness and the absolute realisation that delivering on the customer promise is a key driver of financial success, which turns on a host of factors ranging from the protection of consumer data to supply chain integrity.

Dealing with multiple issues on several fronts requires a level of collaborative dexterity that is, frankly, rare, and relies on a mindset that until very recently was not traditionally part of the executive leadership profile. A crucial factor in driving your response will be the willingness and the ability of your executive team to acknowledge that they now have to actively break down silos and secure executive buy in from colleagues and peers in disparate parts of the business, many of whom will be unaccustomed to working together.

But where to start? In our experience of assisting CEOs and MDs to align teams who are undergoing significant change, it is worth restating the implicit contract you have with your executive team. You want a combination of change, quality, speed, and value; and your team is seeking some combination of autonomy, purpose, mastery and money – and in light of recent developments – tenure. The latter in particular, can create its own levels of inertia if not well managed.

Bringing these things into alignment and sustaining them is difficult at the best of times but now you cannot presume the status quo will hold. New business models will see executive roles reconfigured to fully apprehend the new business reality. A crucial step in de-risking any forthcoming executive realignment process is by having these new roles and their inherent capabilities clearly mapped and applied directly to existing and future roles.

CEOs and MDs need to know their team can see over the horizon, devise a plan, collaborate at unprecedented levels, build a customer-centric culture, and deliver the future. These days high quality domain knowledge is the price of entry for executive engagement but it is not enough. Contemporary executives need to be more technologically adept, commercially astute, empathetic, and adaptive enough to grow in ways that their predecessors could never have imagined.

The reality is that this is an uneasy time to be in the driving seat and not all executives are willing or able to confront the personal changes required to lead in a data-rich world where both strategy and accountability is increasingly devolved to networks of specialised teams and influencers. Beyond EQ and aptitude, we are talking about executives with significant C-appeal: composure, connection, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness.

Closing the capability gap is our speciality. This is a difficult process that can be made significantly easier by using trusted independent advisors to apply proven tools and methodologies to map your new requirements against your existing resources. Throughout this process we assess possibilities for redeployment and uncover opportunities for improvement.

This can be a deeply unsettling experience for many executives and it’s critical that any mapping exercise be undertaken with the end goal in mind: building a multi-skilled, cohesive team that balances the need for culture creation, internal messaging and executive aspiration with the more commercial considerations that ultimately drive business performance.

Peter Tulau has enjoyed a diversified career in operations and production management in industrial and process engineering environments before joining one of Australia’s largest recruitment and human services companies. Over a 25 plus year career, Peter worked across executive search and organisational consulting and led major organisational transformations in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Peter is currently a Director with AltoPartners Australia and the practice head for the industrial, manufacturing and infrastructure sectors.

Peter can be contacted on +61 490 460 492 or p.tulau@altopartners.com.au

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