Recession, change and the heroic leader

John Kay (Beware the cult of the heroic chief executive FT, June 9) provides us with an excellent summary of the failings of the dominant, heroic leader.

My research, conducted after the 1990s recession, shows that a special type of leadership is required if organisations are going to successfully pick their way through a changed post-recession business landscape.  Notably:

  • Leaders must be strong enough to sweep away the blockers of change – those that believe “that the old ways will win through”.
  • Leaders must also be prepared to admit that even they do not have enough knowledge of the new landscape to craft a new competitive strategy.
  • Experimentation and learning.  Leaders need to focus their organisations on a period of experimentation and learning to fill this knowledge vacuum.
  • Short-termist stakeholders – leaders must be strong enough too to resist the demands of those with only a short-term agenda.  Giving the organisation a breathing space to learn is an essential task.

Barking orders, vision statements and grand plans from the top, based on a dated and flawed view of the new world will have disastrous consequences.

My response to the above article, in the form of a letter to the FT, is here.

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