Alternative & Renewable Energy Practice
Alternative & Renewable Energy
Green and clean technologies will need to grow to world scale to have real impact in combating climate change. To achieve this, a new leadership profile is needed, which we call the “extreme corporate entrepreneur CEO” – uniquely entrepreneurial and operational.
Governments and educators need to consider whether today’s executive education should be complemented with development programs geared at instilling vibrant corporate entrepreneurship principles in the young leaders of the next decade.
These skills will not only ensure that the solutions for climate change grow to scale, but will also help traditional sectors renew and expand. The future of both our environment and the returns for investors in clean technology are at stake; hanging on the ability of new technologies to grow to scale.
This key theme emerged during the 2009 New Energy Finance Summit, and has been supported by further research by Heidrick & Struggles.
Until recently, clean tech industries were storming ahead with support from governments, investors and banks. With the onset of the credit crunch, project finance has slowed down and investors are holding on to their cash while awaiting opportunities.
There’s no clear direction yet on which technology, apart from wind power, is truly proven and of industrial scale. Wind power alone will not make up the energy gap. Other technologies like Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Thin Film Solar (TFS) and new solar technologies including wave, geothermal, and second-generation biofuels will need to achieve scale if they are to have an impact on the world’s energy and carbon balance.
Leaders and the logarithm of ten
Technologies and companies go through critical transition points from both a technical and leadership point of view during their growth.
A company’s character and complexity changes radically at the stages of 10, 100, 1,000 and 10,000 employees. Rarely will the same leaders take the company from 10-100 people or from 100-1,000 or beyond, as the company will change radically as it grows.
Our leadership consulting research has indicated the emergence of the “corporate entrepreneur”. This executive type blends the skills and competencies of the visionary entrepreneur with the professional manager.
This means that they not only have the foresight and energy to take a company through rapid growth, but they are also able to give enough structure and process to deliver results.
In a recent round table discussion with investors and chairmen of clean tech companies, we established that what is required to bring these companies to scale is a leader who is strong in both of the two poles – an individual who is simultaneously, an ultra-visionary and ultra-operator.
Few, if any, executives are strong visionary entrepreneurs and company builders, and effective operators at the same time.
Questions every chairman and CEO need to ask are:
Looking at the short as well as the medium and long term, are we confident or executive team can deliver the required growth and profitability?
If not, what can we do to develop them? Could we complement their skills with advisors or interim executives who bring in the missing strengths?
Can our current executive team step up and generate serious growth if and when the market allows?
Do we know their strengths and weaknesses and do we have an external benchmark for how good they really are?
Do you have a strategy in place for replacing key leaders at critical points in the company’s growth?
Looking at the business strategy going forward, these questions should spring to mind:
What could we deliver if we had a CEO or a team with very different skills and capabilities? In the next 2 years, years 3-5, years 5-8?
Is our management team still the right one to deliver the operational efficiencies needed now, and for future growth?
If not, how do we plan to grow the business from where it is today, to where we want it to be in 5–7 years, to real scale?
Investors also need to think through both at the point of investing and at other investment milestones, such as new funding rounds, what they need management to deliver in the short and longer term. They then need to develop an “executive talent plan” for the company, to be reviewed simultaneously with other strategic financial and technical plans.
This might include making shorter contracts for some executives (still allowing for value creation and realization for the executives) and changing executives as the company’s needs evolve through the investment cycle.