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Opportunity or threat?


Themes: Leadership

Opportunity or threat?

The nature of leadership is changing and it is being driven by a transformation in the ways people deal with information. Managers are responding in two ways

Leaders of established and successful organisations must recognise and react positively to the deep-seated changes taking place in an operating environment where complexity is leading to uncertainty.

Dr Jonathan Trevor, Lecturer in Human Resources & Organisations at Cambridge Judge Business School, says executives are responding in two ways – positive and negative. For the latter, their organisations’ shelf life is limited.

His remarks are made in the fifth of a series of discussions around the pressures and changes facing leadership today. Also taking part and expressing the practitioner’s view is Kate Tojeiro, executive coach and Managing Director of Xfusion.

Dr Trevor says it’s unavoidable that senior executives in many established and successful organisations are seeing a deep-seated change taking place within the current operating environment where increasing complexity leads to uncertainty.

“I should imagine it’s a very difficult place to be at the top of what have been traditionally bureaucratic organisations where it’s hard to understand what the future holds. One of the issues – how do we best move forward from our current position given the uncertain environment?”

He suggest that an answer lies in drawing widely on the organisation and its resources, namely its people and their knowledge, to better understand customer demand, the dynamics of markets, internal processes and how they might all be optimised.

Dr Trevor adds that he sees senior executives responding in two ways. Those who see and embrace change are attempting to transform their organisations and to capture the wisdom of their workforce.

“That is a hugely powerful development. It’s a seismic shift in terms of our organisations and how we seek to manage them. It basically means that we are expecting the majority of our organisations to conceive strategy in an emergent way going-forward as opposed to the majority just merely executing orders as we have embraced in the past.

“The second reaction I see as less positive, which is an attempt to exercise further control over the organisation in the absence of really understanding what is going on. It’s a question of not changing the model of the organisation but simply seeking to improve the existing model in order to survive. I have to say I think with this response, it’s a matter of shelf life given the way things are going.”