5 tips for chief executives navigating through unprecedented change

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This year is already like no other.

In the face of such a volatile business environment, only certain chief executives will be able to help their company weather the storm and come out on top. These are the five leadership qualities that will make the difference.

Adaptability

The inability to acknowledge and respond to change is one of the biggest threats to a business during turbulent times. Many have been sunk by the hubris of an invincible leader. A good chief executive needs to be open to different ways of thinking and opinions that challenge their core beliefs. This involves breaking out of the senior management bubble and getting tuned in to signals of change from both the external environment and across the organisation, including people at the fringes. They must know when to stick and focus and when to react. It requires an experimental mindset, which involves trying out new ways of operating and discarding those that don’t work.

Self-Awareness

With pressure coming at business leaders from every direction, they must be able to bring their A-game no matter the situation. This involves making deliberate and thoughtful choices around how to be, rather than reacting to the inevitable emotion of a situation. This is the only way to create an environment where people can do their best work. No leader has all the skills required to meet the relentless succession of challenges they face and it is key to face them head on.

Relationships

In this age of disruption, competitive edge frequently comes from unexpected partnerships and alternative perspectives. This type of collaboration often consists of moments of creative friction and tricky team dynamics. It’s particularly tough to make this process productive during turbulent times. Too often leaders focus on delivery and performance at the expense of relationships. But to pull off the kind of effective collaboration that will deliver new ideas to market, they must become experts in deepening and stengheting relationships, which can be harnessed to drive the required business outcomes.

Dialogue

When things get tricky, chief executives often lock themselves away in the boardroom, leaving employees feeling isolated and uncertain. Leaders are nothing without followers and if they want to bring people along with them and get them operating in new ways, they need to remember to communicate effectively. They must learn to balance authenticity with strategic thinking and active listening with the ability to influence and persuade. This helps to create clarity and confidence, ensuring people know what’s needed from them. If they can combine this with a flair for creating conversation, they will get the deep emotional commitment that will help their people find a way through challenging times.

Restlessness

Great leaders have always been dissatisfied with the status quo and during volatile times this quality has become even more important. Chief executives must balance decisiveness and the ability to focus and execute, with a continuous drive to look with fresh eyes and create progress. If a senior leader can consistently question the norm, it will place them one step ahead of investors, critics, and competitors. It will keep every employee on their toes, working to find a way forwards.