The business graveyard is filled with history lessons of leaders who made the wrong choices. When we look back at some of the mammoth failures you will find leaders who were too conservative, traditional or fundamental in their ways. They completely missed the impact of the internet, e-commerce and the disruptive innovation that came with it. Some are still in denial about a lot of things that have changed in the world. The number of consumer-based businesses that have failed since are significant.
The problem from my point of view is that if an organization wants to be progressive, they can't be stuck with leaders who have biases for the past. The world and businesses are just moving much faster than they did just ten years ago. I have found that leaders who want to be bold need to be willing to take risks, have a vision and not give in to the first ideas that come around. Desperate executives do find themselves chasing the wrong ideas quite often.
For example, the pandemic itself has accelerated our shift to greater e-commerce. Regrettably, once again traditional unprogressive business leaders tend to be far more risk averse and protect the status quo, that isn't forward thinking enough for business today. If they are not turning over every rock and listening to all options they will miss opportunities.
Are more creative or innovative leaders better? They could be if they are disciplined and are not solely led by their open thinking alone and abstain from looking at data and consumer research. Otherwise, it can lead the introduction of a new product or service to market successfully. That means a lot planning and being surrounded by teams that can execute and deliver results.
When these leaders fail it's because they also fall into the trap of being reactionary and not looking at the signs of progress. Quite simply paleo conservatism is out when it comes to the future of leading and building anything. It's difficult for these leaders who are fixed to function in a world that is unconventional and disruptive.
Some of the problems stems from not being able to make their next move. And stay competitive or bring in innovation, at least fast enough. They fall into preservation mode and are unable to see themselves to the next level of breakthroughs. In fact, the trap that most businesses get themselves into is chasing trends versus creating them. That is a one-way trip to a business graveyard. I blame conservative thinking today for the failures that businesses have been facing over the last decade.
The most successful leaders know that you cannot win in the marketplace being risk averse. You don't protect a position, you exploit it, and find ways to continue to improve and grow. When I look at Amazon or Alibaba, they are great examples of the robust continuous creative and innovative businesses, never being satisfied with the status quo. And neither were their leaders. They just kept pushing. It's the same with Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos when it comes to getting into space. It is a relentless path and mission of continuously testing and perfecting their business models. But they wouldn't be there if they were timid, unsure or unwilling to take risks. They had a fiscal responsibility, but they also knew opportunities require risk taking. Conservative leadership behaviours are not comfortable with taking risks and moving organizations towards the future. They may be good choices in a stable business with little to no competition. Or as a good number two to support the founder and CEO to see the other side of the equation. Some people stereotype conservative leaders as accountants or engineers. I don't. This is behavioural it is not based on one’s education and skills.
You can be a fiscally conservative leader, but you must more importantly be open to opportunities that allow you to reach all consumers who are in the market places for your products and services. However, these types of leaders can make other mistakes. Like being overly ambitious on ideas that don't agree with consumers.
The future of business needs leaders that are more balanced. Able to deal with ambiguities, unprecedented events, economic shocks, stock market crashes, disruptive innovation and a business climate that is driven by the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic. And dealing with a growing gig-economy, global competition without borders and a business environment is always unpredictable. The days of the buttoned down, reactionary, old school, staple diet of cutting costs and head counts have proven over the years to be counterintuitive. Ask anyone in the retail world why is that industry in so much disarray? The wrong kind of leaders who push the irrational or unproven concepts, in the end leave businesses, investors and society with unrecoverable losses. A bad plan is always a bad plan.
My name is George Minakakis I am the CEO of Inception Retail Group Inc. Author of both, "The Great Transition The Emergence of Unconventional Leadership" and a soon to be released book "The New Bricks & Mortar Future Proofing Retail."