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Leadership 4.0: adapting organisations in a rapidly evolving world

How do you lead an organization today? Political and social upheaval combined with technological revolution are fundamentally altering the leadership landscape and changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another.

We need a different kind of leadership now than in the past. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the political, social and digital transformation is unlike anything humankind has experienced before. So too, are the basic principles and practices of leadership shifting.

Traditional leadership mind-sets, styles and ways of working within most global corporations are simply not suited to coping with the speed, volatility, complexity and ambiguity of this new operating environment. A new approach to leadership learning and leader development is necessary.

Organisations that understand and embrace this environment can thrive; others will simply fail. The former CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, predicts that 40% of the world’s largest corporations will be extinct within the next decade.  In the last 60 years, the average lifespan of a large organisation has dropped from 60 years to just 18 years. How leaders handle these changes will determine whether their organisations survive, decline or accelerate in the next stage of their lifecycle.

Watch the interview with the Telegraph’s Business Reporter

Our founder and chairman discusses Leadership 4.0

A ‘living research’ project conducted by Oxford Leadership shows that the leaders who are succeeding in this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ have embraced a new mind-set, viewing the organisation as a living organism or eco-system, rather than as a mechanical machine.

“Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution will be defined by the ability to rapidly align & engage empowered, networked teams with clarity of purpose & fierce resolve to win.”

Brian Bacon
Chairman and FounderOxford Leadership

By studying the leadership practices, culture and ‘ways of working’ of several of the world’s largest corporations, Oxford Leadership has found the critical leadership factors to be those which encourage organisational adaptability, speed, and agility. The study shows that leaders who have most effectively adapted their organisations to embrace disruptive technologies and new business models, have challenged the organisational status quo, defined a clear and common purpose and focused on creating the conditions for speed, agility and flexibility in the organisation.

Three important shifts necessary to lead in the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  1. Be purpose driven
    Create a common purpose, which acts as an internal organisational compass that ensures everyone is facing in the same direction, and working towards a common goal with fierce resolve and a shared sense of meaning.
  2. See the organisation as a living organism
    Instead of looking at your organisation through the lens of mechanical science, view your organisation as a living system – as an eco-system of eco-systems that is constantly evolving with a ‘team of teams’ approach – hyper networked, relationship rich and with continuous communication feedback loops.   
  3. Devolve decision-making authority to empowered teams
    Devolve authority and mandates to hyper-networked teams, bound together by technology and a common purpose. Replace traditional organisational silos with diverse and highly connected teams with distributed authority and a collaborative decision-making process. 

A shift from thinking and operating in silos to hyperconnected globally dispersed teams.

So what’s the result?

Clear Purpose, Adaptability, Speed and Agility are the keys.  Developing a crystal-clear common purpose that acts as an internal compass, and re-structuring the organisation around empowered, hyper-connected teams with devolved and distributed authority leads to faster decision-making. This enables organisations to become much faster and more agile while making good decisions, together, faster.

“Probably 40% of the world’s leading companies will not exist in a meaningful way ten years from now.”

John Chambers
Former CEO, Cisco

The next generation of leaders will be those who can develop a common purpose, trusting people and empowering teams to act on their own initiative. Shifting the structure and mind-set of an entire organisation away from that of mechanical science to something more organic and biological that breaks the silo mentality will create excitement and engagement in a resilient, energetic and adaptable eco-system, ready to take a leadership position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Read the Research Report.

Leadership & Operations

Brian Bacon

Brian Bacon is the Founder & Exec Chairman of Oxford Leadership.

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