The British banker and politician Nathan Rothschild viewed chaos as a source of opportunity, noting, rather cynically, that great fortunes are made when cannonballs fall in the harbor, not when violins play in the ballroom. Rothschild understood that complexity and unpredictability can be favorable, but only if companies have the right leadership to capitalize on it.
As the number of challenges companies face multiply in today’s turbulent environment, the performance of a company’s leaders will continue to erode unless HR takes a different approach.
There are three ways for companies to create the right leaders for future success.
Focus on context-specific leadership profiles: HR teams need to factor in “work context,” which refers to the situation and challenges that each leader faces. These differences can be in the role itself, team dynamics, industry challenges and so on.
Companies that move to context-specific leadership profiles not only produce a better fit between the leader’s capabilities and specific challenges but also open the door to a more diverse leadership team.
Make your leadership processes as flexible as possible: Companies today have to navigate volatile economic, business, and political environments and require leaders with the experience and disposition to handle challenging situations. HR teams should look to develop leaders who excel against a set of challenges, rather than conforming to a generic leadership model. This requires flexible and agile leadership processes that can adapt to new challenges in the environment.
Base leader decisions on properly analyzed data: Most companies will have extensive information on their leaders, such as character traits, past leadership roles, what they have delivered in various assignments, and past performance – often from the viewpoints of managers, peers, and direct reports.
Yet when it comes time to select the right leaders for key roles, many HR teams leave it to people to pull all this information together, rather than using the wealth of technology undoubtedly already at their disposal to turn it into useful, consumable business intelligence. Relying on instinct and intuition when placing leaders into key roles leads to unnecessary risk, an increased chance of failure, and a lack of diversity among those selected. Instead, companies should use precise, data-based predictions to pick the best leader to handle the current and future challenges the company faces.