Navigating Unprecedented Challenges

By mid-2023 it has become trite to say that we are living through an era of unprecedented challenges and opportunities. The climate crisis, global health challenges, and changes in social values are upending individual priorities. Globalization and geopolitics are shifting the world seismically. How we live and work is being constantly reinvented by advances in technology and the emergence of generations who were “born digital.” How should leaders navigate this moment? What does leadership look like in an era where turbulence and disruption are the norm?

In an article in McKinsey Quarterly called New Leadership for a New Era of Thriving Organizations, the authors posit that a new form of organization and management has been slowly emerging, one that seeks to be open, fluid, and adaptable; unleashes the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of its people; reimagines strategy; and focuses on delivering greater value to all stakeholders.

How this New Executive Recruitment Model Works

This new model focuses on a powerful aspiration: creating sustainable, inclusive growth. The companies leading the way are developing new architectures featuring collaborative networks of self-managing teams that operate in rapid cycles and focus on creating value for their stakeholders. Their cultures support a more open, collaborative, and emergent way of working. And the shift to this new kind of model changes the way businesspeople must lead.

This change will require a radical new approach to recruiting executives, from Directors to the C-Suite. The authors posit that we are moving from an era of individual leaders to an era of networked leadership teams that steer the organization. The old hierarchical model of leadership is increasingly seen as an obstacle to meeting the complex demands facing today’s organizations. Companies seeking to thrive now still need leaders who are accountable for their individual roles—but leadership itself resides in the teams of leaders acting in service to the organization. High-performing leadership teams will always outperform the capabilities of their individuals. This new model has a clear purpose and focus: to benefit all stakeholders by enabling people to work and learn together to build and operate a continually evolving system for creating value.

An Evolution in Executive Recruitment

This new approach calls on leaders to make fundamental evolutionary shifts, well beyond the standard expectation that they continually develop additional skills. They must, in fact, reimagine themselves, undertaking inner work to shift their mindsets and consciousness to see the world anew; rethink their interactions, roles, and ways of working as part of leadership teams; and reimagine their organizations and the industries in which they operate.

For decades, the attributes regarded as central to being a successful company have mirrored the qualities prized in leaders: focusing on earnings, demanding results, exercising authority and control, and being fiercely competitive. For organizations to thrive now, all of these leadership characteristics must evolve. For leaders, this means making five fundamental shifts in mindsets and ways of working.

  • A shift in focus from maximizing profit to maximizing value and impact with a mindset of possibility.
  • A shift in the methodology of value creation from competition to co-creation with a mindset of abundance.
  • A shift in organization from command to collaboration with a mindset of partnership.
  • A shift in how work gets done from control to evolution with a mindset of discovery.
  • A shift in how leaders show up from expectations to wholeness with a mindset of authenticity.

These shifts don’t mean abandoning traditional skills. Instead, these shifts build on those skills to substantially expand leaders’ capacity. In other words, leaders need to move beyond the current norm to an evolved determination to lead thriving organizations in this new disruptive era. Taken together, the five shifts redefine leadership for a new era.

The McKinsey authors’ points here are very well taken. Companies must shift quickly from old, traditional forms of management based on profit, competition, command, control, and expectations to leadership that is more nimble, agile, and consistent with what the new generations of leaders are used to in a fast-paced, quickly evolving world. Given the complexity of this change, firms will need to recruit, interview, and screen in a whole new way. A relationship with a recruiting firm that understands and stands for the demands of this new world is likely to produce the best results. An effective recruiting partner will partner with the company to identify the right combination of skill and experience to find the top candidates and to convey to them what the hiring company stands for.

ABOUT BRAINWORKS

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