Leading in Turbulent Times

Kevin Kelly (Author) | Gary Hayes (Author)

Publication date: 02/01/2010

Leading in Turbulent Times

Steering Into the Headwinds of Change

Turbulent times are here to stay. The global recession is today’s current headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of twenty-first century business. Signs like the volatility of commodity prices and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The challenge of the next few years is learning to maneuver confidentially in perpetual turbulence.

 

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed frontline leaders with proven track records for adapting to rapid change and helping their companies thrive. In Leading in Turbulent Times, these extraordinary executives—from successful international companies such as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanente, Marks & Spencer, and more—share how they have confronted the challenges every leader must now face.

You’ll discover how to recognize the early signs of rough seas ahead and mobilize and inspire your people to respond. Kelly and Hayes explain what top leaders do to chart new strategies that build on existing strengths and, when necessary, change direction quickly and decisively. But a different course is not always welcomed by everyone, so Leading in Turbulent Times offers advice on putting down mutinies in ways that acknowledge legitimate concerns without distracting or alienating loyal crewmembers. And the authors focus on how to cope with the personal stress that comes with guiding your organization and your people through the turmoil.

Leading in Turbulent Times shows how you can use change to your advantage at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

Turbulent times are here to stay. The credit crunch is today’s current dramatic headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of 21st century business. The volatility of commodity prices for example, especially oil, and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The leadership challenge of the next few years is learning to fly with turbulence.

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course through the turmoil? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed the frontline leaders who really know how to adapt to rapid change and help their companies overcome obstacles. They’ve spoken to CEOs and business leaders from some of the most successful companies in the US, Europe and Asia, such as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Swiss Re, Marks & Spencer. Leading in Turbulent Times draws on these unique interviews to help you address the key questions for leading in turbulent times, such as:

•                  How do you recognize the early signals?

•                  How do you mobilize the people in your company to respond?

•                  How do you build an effective and responsive strategy in the face of relentless change?

•                  How do you deal with people who are resistance to change, no matter how essential it may be?

•                  How can you learn to change direction swiftly and decisively?

•                  How can you personally cope with leading your organization and your people through turbulent times?

Leading in Turbulent Times helps you use turbulent change to your advantage, at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

 

  • Shows what every leader must do to cope with perpetual change—the key characteristic of twenty-first century business
  • Provides unrivalled access to the best managed boardrooms in the world through unique interviews with some of today’s most resilient and innovative leaders
  • Combines inspirational anecdotes and case studies with solid, practical advice

Turbulent times are here to stay. The global recession is today’s current dramatic headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of twenty-first century business. Signs like the volatility of commodity prices and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The challenge of the next few years is learning to maneuver confidentially in perpetual turbulence.

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed frontline leaders with proven track records for adapting to rapid change and helping their companies thrive. In Leading in Turbulent Times these extraordinary executives—from such successful international companies as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanents, Marks & Spencer and more—share how they have confronted the challenges every leader must now face.

You’ll discover how to recognize the early signs of rough seas ahead and mobilize and inspire your people to respond. Kelly and Hayes explain what top leaders do to chart new strategies that build on existing strengths and, when necessary, change direction quickly and decisively. But a different course is not always welcomed by everyone, so Leading in Turbulent Times offers advice on putting down mutinies in ways that acknowledge legitimate concerns without distracting or alienating loyal crewmembers. And they focus on how to cope with the personal stress that comes with guiding your organization and your people through the turmoil.

Leading in Turbulent Times shows how you can use change to your advantage, at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

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Overview

Steering Into the Headwinds of Change

Turbulent times are here to stay. The global recession is today’s current headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of twenty-first century business. Signs like the volatility of commodity prices and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The challenge of the next few years is learning to maneuver confidentially in perpetual turbulence.

 

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed frontline leaders with proven track records for adapting to rapid change and helping their companies thrive. In Leading in Turbulent Times, these extraordinary executives—from successful international companies such as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanente, Marks & Spencer, and more—share how they have confronted the challenges every leader must now face.

You’ll discover how to recognize the early signs of rough seas ahead and mobilize and inspire your people to respond. Kelly and Hayes explain what top leaders do to chart new strategies that build on existing strengths and, when necessary, change direction quickly and decisively. But a different course is not always welcomed by everyone, so Leading in Turbulent Times offers advice on putting down mutinies in ways that acknowledge legitimate concerns without distracting or alienating loyal crewmembers. And the authors focus on how to cope with the personal stress that comes with guiding your organization and your people through the turmoil.

Leading in Turbulent Times shows how you can use change to your advantage at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

Turbulent times are here to stay. The credit crunch is today’s current dramatic headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of 21st century business. The volatility of commodity prices for example, especially oil, and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The leadership challenge of the next few years is learning to fly with turbulence.

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course through the turmoil? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed the frontline leaders who really know how to adapt to rapid change and help their companies overcome obstacles. They’ve spoken to CEOs and business leaders from some of the most successful companies in the US, Europe and Asia, such as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Swiss Re, Marks & Spencer. Leading in Turbulent Times draws on these unique interviews to help you address the key questions for leading in turbulent times, such as:

•                  How do you recognize the early signals?

•                  How do you mobilize the people in your company to respond?

•                  How do you build an effective and responsive strategy in the face of relentless change?

•                  How do you deal with people who are resistance to change, no matter how essential it may be?

•                  How can you learn to change direction swiftly and decisively?

•                  How can you personally cope with leading your organization and your people through turbulent times?

Leading in Turbulent Times helps you use turbulent change to your advantage, at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

 

  • Shows what every leader must do to cope with perpetual change—the key characteristic of twenty-first century business
  • Provides unrivalled access to the best managed boardrooms in the world through unique interviews with some of today’s most resilient and innovative leaders
  • Combines inspirational anecdotes and case studies with solid, practical advice

Turbulent times are here to stay. The global recession is today’s current dramatic headline, but accelerating change and economic uncertainty are the hallmarks of twenty-first century business. Signs like the volatility of commodity prices and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere. These powerful forces for change are the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by all leaders and those they lead. The challenge of the next few years is learning to maneuver confidentially in perpetual turbulence.

So what should you do as a leader to keep your business on course? Kevin Kelly and Gary Hayes have interviewed frontline leaders with proven track records for adapting to rapid change and helping their companies thrive. In Leading in Turbulent Times these extraordinary executives—from such successful international companies as McDonald’s, General Electric, Nissan, Coca-Cola, Kaiser Permanents, Marks & Spencer and more—share how they have confronted the challenges every leader must now face.

You’ll discover how to recognize the early signs of rough seas ahead and mobilize and inspire your people to respond. Kelly and Hayes explain what top leaders do to chart new strategies that build on existing strengths and, when necessary, change direction quickly and decisively. But a different course is not always welcomed by everyone, so Leading in Turbulent Times offers advice on putting down mutinies in ways that acknowledge legitimate concerns without distracting or alienating loyal crewmembers. And they focus on how to cope with the personal stress that comes with guiding your organization and your people through the turmoil.

Leading in Turbulent Times shows how you can use change to your advantage, at a time when everyone else is being blown off course.  

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Meet the Authors


Visit Author Page - Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly is Chief Executive Officer of Heidrick & Struggles, the world's leading search firm. One of a new generation of global CEO's, Kevin is a widely respected commentator on leadership in a changing business world. Before returning to his native America in 2008, Kevin spent a decade in Tokyo and three years in London. Named ""Headhunter of the Year"" in 2000 by Finance Intelligence Asia magazine and ""one of Asia's Top Recruiters"" four years running by AsiaMoney magazine, Kevin has extensive first-hand experience of building senior leadership teams for the world's most successful companies at board level across Asia Pacific and Europe.



Visit Author Page - Gary Hayes

Gary E. Hayes is a Managing Partner of the New York-based human capital consultancy Hayes Brunswick and Partners. He has spent over 15 years working with corporate leaders to help them adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.

Gary has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Columbia University, as well as masters degrees in international affairs, psychological counseling, and counseling psychology from Columbia and a B.S. in foreign service from Georgetown University. He has served on the faculties of Columbia University, Yeshiva University, the National Institute for Psychotherapies, the Institute for the Psychoanalytic Study of Subjectivity, and Ecole Francaises des Attache des Pres. Gary has published numerous articles on leadership development topics.

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Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: All Change
CHAPTER 2: Knowing When the Winds are Coming
CHAPTER 3: All Hands on Deck
CHAPTER 4: Navigating a New Route
CHAPTER 5: Mastering Mutinies
CHAPTER 6: Learning to Tack
CHAPTER 7: Living with Turbulence
CHAPTER 8:  Your Turbulent Checklist

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Excerpt

Introduction

The business world is in the midst of a period of turbulence not seen for a generation. Some commentators liken it to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Hopefully, that may be overstating the crisis, but there is no doubt that the credit crunch sent shock waves through the financial world. Venerable Wall Street institutions such as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch have bitten the dust. And, what started as a crunch has become a more wide-ranging crisis, a series of shock waves hitting the world economy. The volatility of commodity prices, especially oil, and fluctuations in currencies are all part of a broader weather system affecting business everywhere.

In part, this reflects fundamental changes in the economic world order – as America's economic hegemony is eroded. In part, too, it is the hangover from a decade-long credit binge in the United States and other parts of the developed world. But whatever the underlying causes, many business leaders have little or no experience of trying to stay on course in these sorts of once-in-a-career turbulent conditions.

What a growing number of leaders are grappling with is a challenge that is central to economic survival and social progress in the twentieth century: How do you pick up signals on your leadership radar that allow your people to navigate through the sorts of headwinds that are buffeting organisations all around the world? How do you inspire and reassure your people that they can come through these difficult times? Most of all, how can you as a leader turn these headwinds to the advantage of the organisation to ride them to success? In short: How do you lead in turbulent times?

The turbulent pattern

While turbulence has attracted headlines and dominated the agenda over the last years of this century's first decade it is nothing new. Indeed, in our work with corporate leaders over the last 20 years, we have been struck by a recurring pattern. Time and time again we are asked to help new leaders cope with the increasing volatility of their marketplaces.

It isn't simply that these leaders are uncomfortable with ambiguity or change – indeed many of them are promoted precisely because of their ability to manage complexity. Rather, it is the uncertainty caused by the accelerating rate of change that these new leaders find hard to adapt to. Many simply find they are overwhelmed by the sheer unpredictability of the economic weather patterns moving through their industries. Over time, we have come to see these powerful forces for change as the corporate equivalent of headwinds, something which must be faced and navigated by leaders and those they lead.

A headwind is defined as: ‘A wind blowing directly against the course of a moving object, especially an aircraft or ship.' The reality is simple: the headwinds are here to stay. And the headwinds are unrelenting. The leadership challenge of the next few years is learning to fly with such all-embracing turbulence.

It's a bit like trying to fly through a hurricane. It doesn't matter whether you are in a light aircraft or a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, staying on course in a headwind is tough. What the best pilots realise is that you need to know how to read your leadership instruments and change course sometimes to make headway. Sometimes, too, you need to know when to put the plane down on the nearest piece of flat land and sit out the storm.

In 2009, our fascination with the issues facing frontline leaders in turbulent times across a wide range of sectors – from banking to retailing – led us to embark on a series of interviews with CEOs and business leaders worldwide. Leading in Turbulent Times is based on insights from those revealing and candid interviews.1

What did we discover? Three really strong messages emerged from our conversations:

Passion rules. Leaders are frequently and usually unfairly pilloried for taking the money and running. True, the financial benefits of running large organisations have never been greater, but the leaders we encountered aren't turned on by money. It is important, of course, but they are driven by a real passion for their business, their organisation and the people they work with. Turbulent times simply highlight this passion under an even brighter light. ‘For a business leader, the more the environment changes, the more passion he or she should possess', is how Wang Jianzhou of China Mobile put it. Money is one-dimensional; with passion you can turn everyone on.

Take Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the founders of Infosys. ‘I am passionate about the company. This is half my life. All we have achieved, that we have today, is because of Infosys. There is a lot of ownership and pride', he told us. ‘We see Infosys as a mechanism for bringing about change. This means bringing about change in the industry through new models. We are seen as a leader. We are able to bring change to countries because of the position Infosys has in India. There are 103,000 employees meaning good jobs are being created. There are a lot of ways we can bring about change. People listen to you. You can influence government and society. We see Infosys as an instrument for change.'

Hard times call for mastery of the soft side. The so-called ‘soft' skills of leadership – communication (which includes both informing people and listening to them and their concerns); empathy, which is not to be confused with sympathy but rather is a rigorous attempt to understand one's employee's views and efforts; and mentoring and coaching so that they feel that even in, or especially in turbulent times they are continuing to learn and develop – are vitally important in negotiating any protracted period of turbulence.

The hard stuff of keeping costs under control and slashing numbers tends to grab the headlines, but the leaders we spoke to were focused on guiding, helping and maximising the human potential of those in their teams rather than employing twenty-first century slash and burn tactics. This is a timely reminder that cost control is a business basic, but extracting great performance from people is always based on more complex and subtle motivational tools than pure fear.

Communication filled many pages of our notes and hours of our conversations with leaders. Communication is what leaders do. Day in, day out, they communicate. During difficult times all put a premium on the transparency and frequency of their communication internally and externally. Keeping the troops informed helps to decrease rumours and needless worries, while listening to their concerns and ideas keeps them engaged and committed.

‘I create more opportunities than before to communicate with new guys directly – having lunch, breakfast, even dinner with them. I'm very close to them. They haven't had any experience of this kind of crisis or hard times before. So that's why I have to talk with them. I'm always there with them', says Takeshi Niinami of the Japanese company, Lawson.

Think long term. The moment can appear all-embracing as one wave of misfortune after another crashes down. Leaders refuse to bow under immediate pressure. Instead, they use short-term pressures to harden their focus on long-term objectives. While the present can appear confused and chaotic, for most inspiring leaders the future remains crystal clear.

‘Clarity of vision, purpose and values make a CEO's job a lot easier because you never lose sight of what that long-term vision is and nor do your people – especially because you're always reminding them of what it is', says Linda Wolf, retired Leo Burnett Chairman and CEO. ‘Having a long-term vision doesn't mean that you're complacent; in fact, it challenges you because you can always do better against it. At the same time, it gives you the clarity of purpose that is critical.'

Leading in Turbulent Times explains how some of the world's best leaders navigate through the eye of the storm. We hope this book will help arm all who read it with new perspectives on the challenges set to dominate corporate and leadership agendas for the years to come.

Kevin Kelly and Gary E. Hayes
July 2009

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