Producers no longer control the nature of the marketplace, at least according to the latest marketing blogs. Reactionary leadership is the way to make money these days – following the curve is a great way to maintain an ongoing stream of revenue. It may not be exciting or expansive, but it pays the bills.
The viewpoint above could be defined as “doing smart business.” However, this is not the model that industry leaders follow. Amazon, Google, Apple, Twitter, Wal Mart, Home Depot – by the definition above, these companies are rebellious, disruptive and even wrongheaded.
Why, then, do these industry leaders succeed above their competition exponentially, creating job opportunities for employees and new innovations for consumers?
Proactive leadership, not reactionary leadership, will always win the day.
As an analyst, you must ask the question of reactionary leaders – what exactly are they reacting to? The answer is telling. They are reacting to the industry leaders – the Wal Marts, the Home Depots and the Amazons. If they were the industry leaders in front of the trends and creating movements, they would not have to react. Others would be reacting to them.
There is an axiom that the middle class of consumers and of business seems to have taken to heart. “There is nothing new under the sun.” This may be true. Ideas are constantly recycled from their previous iterations, given new names and resold. Vitamin Water is basically just Tang from 15 years ago.
However, there are always new perspectives on old ideas. Old ideas can always be improved upon. If not, then we would still be living in grass huts instead of preparing for fully connected online houses through the Internet of Things. The companies at the head of this movement had to take the risk to say something. Yes, we have basically mastered the art of putting a roof over our heads and shielding ourselves from the elements. However, there is a higher level of comfort that we may achieve. We can protect ourselves while using less of the planet’s resources. We can actually become a part of the ecosystem, giving back to the earth as we convert its energy into the format that we as humans need to live.
Take a look at all of the innovations that could occur from simply thinking about ideas beyond the basics. Every idea creates room for more innovation – a new company that can specialize in the development of that idea, taking it to its optimal level. From there, another idea can spark a new business, and so on. Thinking this way is the main job of every executive of every company on the planet. Some do it better than others.
However, being a proactive CEO comes with a challenge – selling a new idea. It is one thing to theorize and spend millions in R&D; it is quite another to profit from that bold action. This is what stops many executives from being proactive. The first guy out has to take all of the slings and arrows. The first girl out has to get everything right.
Or does (s)he?
The most innovative companies in the world do not take a kamikaze approach to innovation. Google, Facebook and Apple all have different ways of milking their human talent for the next big thing, but it gets done. Google, for instance, does not bet the farm on products such as Google Glass or deploying fiber optic infrastructure into rural towns with no profit potential for decades. They allow a selected contingent of their employee base 20% of the day as a huge brainstorming session. They have access to resources that help them test ideas and present them to the company for additional funding.
The right to innovate in these companies is earned. Each company with even a modicum of success should look at their own achievements as permission to move forward with a percentage of their budget. Perhaps the entire budget cannot be used, but this is part of the executive’s job as well. How can the business maintain its status quo using less resources and more technology? Automation, crowdsourcing and process management are just a few of the concepts that executives may employ to ensure that a larger percentage of profits can move into research and development.
The mindset of the executive must be changed before any concrete changes can be made within a company. The technology may be there; the talent may be ready. If they do not get the order from the top, they will not be able to move on anything. Just as new ground level employees may need coaching on the latest version of the company CRM, executives may require coaching on the proactive mindset.
Developing this proactive mindset does not occur naturally in most cases. Business leaders need guidance just like any individual, and companies like Source Point Coaching are here to accomplish just that. It can be quite difficult to focus on change when the status quo keeps the bills paid and has a suitable profit coming down the pike. However, clueless leadership kills innovation and vision. Companies that are not built on being proactive will not cultivate this attitude from within. However, the value of reactive leaders versus proactive leaders is not even a contest – proactive wins every time.
Success or failure. It all falls on your shoulders as an executive, but not in the way you think. There is help.