Friday, September 24, 2021
In 2012, American retailer Best Buy was going out of business. Then-CEO Hubert Joly decided to take the bull by the horns. Eight years later, Best Buy underwent a successful transformation, and the company is now one of America’s top employers. Stock price rose as customer satisfaction increased—not to mention that Best Buy also became a leader in sustainability and innovation. For the full story, well, get a copy of “The Heart of Business,” a must-read leadership book.
Best Buy’s amazing turnaround can be attributed to a pioneering leadership model—pursuing a noble purpose, putting people back at the centre of the organization, and treating profit as an outcome, not a goal. Sounds obvious? It wasn’t back then, but a new trend was born.
A new leader is someone who can adapt to ever-changing situations (digital transformation, green revolution, pandemic management, etc.). This new leadership model can be achieved at any time. There are no generational gaps here, and actual leader age is irrelevant—a 60-year-old manager can embrace the new leadership model while their 30-year-old peer could have a more old-school paternalistic and authoritarian management style. Bottom line is, new leadership is a way of embracing circumstances, whatever they are, and adopting the mindset that best fits current events.
True leadership shows up the crossroad of human emotion and challenging circumstances. Leaders are invariably able to express their emotions because they must build a trusting relationship, make people want to follow them and inspire the desire to do something. And when facing adversity or challenges, leaders rise up as the right person for the job. This means they have the resources to win a battle, dedicate time and energy to tackle tough times or face all kinds of issues. Leaders don’t shine when everything is going well. So a leader is not necessarily a manager, and a manager is not necessarily a leader.
A leader is someone who is able to motivate and bring people together for a common goal. This means providing direction and guidance rather than merely bossing people around—the key is to foster a positive mindset and a can-do attitude.
Take Aimé Jacquet, for instance. The manager of the French national football team that won the 1998 FIFA World Cup was distrusted by sports media until he coached players to success. He was a true leader, a sophisticated and altruistic strategist who took responsibility, and he knew when to step aside after reaching the ultimate goal.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to read, express, understand and use emotions, and to manage your own emotions as well as other people’s. A leader must manage emotions to bring people and projects together and avoid conflict. They also put all aspects of diversity and inclusion (gender, ethnicity, disability, etc.) front and centre.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister since 2017, is one of those women transforming politics. She’s compassionate, she’s a good listener, and she’s empathetic. She explained that: “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
A leader should care about our planet, the environment, and the impact of the organization’s activities. There’s a key regenerative aspect to leadership—reinventing, innovating, shaking up the status quo and questioning old dogmas are essential to building a better, sustainable and responsible world.
Emmanuel Faber, former CEO of Danone, is well-known for taking a stand for social justice. Case in point, he turned Danone into a company with a mission to reach social, community and environmental goals.
In the book “L’entreprise altruiste” (not yet translated), the two authors highlight companies that succeeded by taking an interest in the common good. Through their core business activities, these organizations focus unconditionally on creating value for stakeholders (suppliers, customers and local communities). Guess what—they outperformed traditional competition. This approach fully aligns with these new models of sustainable, virtuous and open leadership. An altruistic company is not subject to economic considerations (not giving to receive later). Instead, it uses resources and production tools to seek common good and creation of social value.
Leadership is not an exact science—it’s an approach that relies on people, their resilience, their willingness to bounce back, and their emotional and cultural intelligence. These are fundamental soft skills to be leveraged in all innovative organizations.