Chief Executive Officer & Board of Directors;
leadership turbulence ceo
**"This excerpt from "Leading in Turbulent Times" is re-printed with the permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, www.bkconnection.com."
Fast, turbulent, exciting and scary. It has never been more difficult to make sense of the world. Change rules. ‘Our sales are half what they were this time last year, which is a challenge. But, I think we’re in the same place that a lot of other people are in right now.’ One CEO told us. “The focus on performance is finer. When you are growing at 35 percent everybody benefits; when your growth goes down to 11 percent or 12 percent, the separation between the poor and the best performer’s increases. And, you then need to figure out how to handle it, because the environment you cannot let that rise. We have had to let some of those poor performers go.’
Over the past three recessions in 1981, 1991 and 2001, the car rental company Hertz never experienced its annual sales contract more than 3.5 percent in any given recession. In November and December of 2008, it saw a 20 percent fall. In January of 2009, Hertz announced a reduction in its global workforce by 4000 employees in a bid to decrease costs due to reduced demand. Hertz had already reduced its workforce by 22 percent in the last two years.
Change rules. And rules change.
Another CEO told us a few years ago he used to get his sales figures every month. Then it went to every week. Now it can be every hour. In the next year, General Electric will launch more new products than in any previous year in its century-plus history.
“The environment has changed so much, especially in the financial sector, that some of the old rules do not apply’, Bijan Khosrowshahi, former CEO of Fuji Fire and Marine in Japan observed, echoing the opinions of many in the business world and beyond. ‘The old orthodoxies will not serve us well in the future’, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the G20 Summit in Spring of 2009.
‘For business leaders and people who are on the track to leadership, this will have a permanent impact on the way they do business. The level of trust has been diminished and I think it will take years and decades to build that back. In terms of how people are going to do business, I think there’s going to be a lot more skepticism’ anticipates former Leo Burnett CEO, Linda Wolf.
Change rules. Change is a fixture. There is no escaping this essential fact. Change rules. Charles Darwin said: It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
So, the first message of this book is that change is a universal fact of organizational life. No business is immune. Any leader who refuses that change is in denial. Becoming an agile leader – in terms of thinking and behavior is critical for success in turbulent times. Rigid and inflexible thinking runs the risk of making today’s leaders irrelevant.