Important Leadership Trends

Pat Schally

Q: In looking forward to the decade in front of us, what is one important trend in leadership to consider?

A: Here's what two professors have to say about innovation today: Professors von Krough and Raisch (Harvard Business Review, Oct., 2009) uncovered what we think may be a future trend for leaders to notice—a strategy related to innovation. Global companies "most successful at achieving growth through innovation tend to devote their energies to a small number of breakthrough ideas." They "put innovation on the top of the agenda, work across functional and divisional boundaries, and empower employees with an entrepreneurial mind-set."

That's quite a "to do" list but the companies they highlight (Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, GE and BMW) are examples of champions in which their shareholder returns were nearly double those of other Global 500 companies.

How does this trend trickle down to leaders in small and large companies? Conservative thinking as it relates to breakthrough ideas seems to oppose the business plan of many leaders who believe that they must have a large inventory of creative ideas to succeed. To stay competitive, they find comfort in a constant pipeline of innovation. According to the professors' research, however, reducing the number of initiatives and cutting costs to redistribute dollars to R&D results in greater rewards and profits. Apparently, no matter the size of an organization, when it comes to innovation, the trend seems to be that leaders need to think "less is more" in order to grow.

Last summer, we posted a blog entry on an ad campaign that was humorous and anti-trend but factual. It's a good example of a company staying with their original brand that had staying power.

"Next time your breakfast consists of Post's Shredded Wheat, consider the CEO's message from their recent ad campaign: "Progress is Overrated". He takes a jab at the idea that progress has taken us to a better place. He explains that by stating, "Throughout the years our product has not changed since it was introduced over a hundred years ago. It's natural, 100% whole wheat and free of additives." Read more or comment on our blog.

Pat Schally, a consultant with Sonoma Leadership Systems, is editor of the newsletter, The Leader's Almanac. The intent of the Almanac is to generate ideas, inform and engage leaders everywhere. Sonoma Leadership Systems is the #1 provider of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, training, and materials. Click here for more information on upcoming public workshops.

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