About a year ago, I sat down over coffee with the CEO of an IT company. The CEO -- we'll call him Robert -- shared with me that his organization had been the market leader in their industry for the past five years and had enjoyed consistent growth and profitability. Their success to that point, he believed, was based on their leadership and their employees' sheer drive and relentless focus on key results.
Yet despite their past success, Robert confided that he had deep concerns about the company's future. A competitor with a creative, new technology had recently overtaken them as the market leader, and he had just learned that they had lost one of their key customers to this competitor. To make matters worse, the organization's most recent employee survey revealed that morale was low, people were burned out, communication was lacking and employees had lost faith in leadership.
In strategy sessions with his executive team, Robert had sat and listened as various leaders rationalized that the competitor's innovation was nothing more than a fad that would quickly run its course, and when that happened, customers would come back. Robert shared, "That was when it hit me that this was the kind of thinking that got us where we are today ... in trouble. Looking around the table, I realized that I have a team full of left-brain thinkers who are proficient in fact-based decision making, efficiency and process oriented, and extremely results focused. But we are sorely missing creativity, collaboration, a big-picture perspective, listening skills and emotional intelligence. When our big customer left for the competition, they told us that they felt we didn't listen to or understand their needs."
Then Robert told me about a woman who had been on the executive team until she was hired away by another company. She had always been "the voice of the customer" and had communicated that the key customer wasn't happy. Somewhat embarrassed, Robert confessed that the rest of the executive team had discounted her input. "Now I see the different perspective and value she brought to our organization," he said and then concluded, "I think we need some balance on the leadership team."
In Shambaugh's leadership development and executive coaching practice, we see many talented executives and profitable organizations that have achieved measureable success, yet suddenly find themselves falling behind the market and/or the competition. Consistently, I find that the primary reason for this shift is that these leaders and organizations continue to rely on the same leadership approach that garnered them success in the past. And why shouldn't they? If it's not broken, don't fix it, right?
While current leadership models aren't necessarily "broken," the reality is that they can't and won't drive success in today's business environment. In other words, what got you where you are isn't going to get you where you want to go in the future. The world is a very different place than it was just ten short years ago. You simply can't run a successful company in today's complex global marketplace the same way you did in the past. The truth is that we can no longer use the same thought and decision-making processes and expect to be successful ... 20th-century leadership models won't work for 21st-century organizations and 21st-century problems.
Successful organizations of the future will be led by fully engaged, balanced teams of men and women working together synergistically to produce extraordinary results. I call this Integrated Leadership. In Shambaugh's Fundamentals of Leadership Program and Coaching Practice we start from the premise that leaders who create high performing organizations and get lasting results are those who value and leverage the broad spectrum of gender intelligence -- an intentional balance that enables an organization to deal with the complexities in today's marketplace. A balanced, integrated leadership team is the new competitive advantage.
So what happened to Robert and his organization? Through the course of our conversation, he came to understand that he had been operating with only half of his potential leadership capacity. He also realized that if his organization was going to continue to succeed in the future, he would need a broader range of leadership traits, thinking, and perspectives in order to respond to market dynamics, challenges, and opportunities.
In the following months, Robert worked to shift his leadership team. He brought on new leaders who possessed a diversity of perspectives, styles, and traits and represented both left and right brain thinking. With a balanced, integrated leadership team in place, over time, his organization earned back customers they had lost and regained market share.
That is one leader's and one organization's story. What about yours?
- Are you relying on leadership models of the past to achieve success in the future?
- How balanced and integrated is your leadership team?
- As an organization, are you leveraging your gender intelligence?
- What problems is your organization currently facing? Could those challenges be better addressed with a broader range of leadership perspectives, styles and traits?
Shambaugh's leadership and organizational development, employee engagement, and coaching services in addition to Shambaugh's Programs for Women and their Women In Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program (view video highlights of Shambaugh's WILL Program) have been successfully impacting the careers of women leaders for more than 17 years. Visit www.shambaughleadership.com to learn more about Shambaugh's integrated and holistic approach towards developing and advancing women in the workplace.