In the 3IR, the hierarchical structures underpinned by a centralised command and control culture of managers worked for many organisations, despite themselves. One reason for this is that consumers had limited choices and the pace of change was slow.
Products and services changed but there was no real transformation. The top banks, the biggest retail outlets and the household cinema names decided what they would push into the marketplace based on “inside-out” business strategies. One would be forgiven to have labelled many of the executives of the said businesses as mutual admiration societies where they were more concerned with their self-centred egos than with the client and customer needs.
This reality is evident when one engages with executive teams and managers who are still running businesses, even though they have not transformed in themselves. The fruits of such executive teams are conflict, self-centredness, selfish ambition and a lack of trust.
The reason – in the 4IR the structures are becoming flatter, collaborative teams that are client-centric and build outside-in business strategies are needed, and high levels of trust determine the agility of to respond to change. The 3IR manager who is incapable of becoming a 4IR leader will ultimately not survive and if the organisation allows the 3IR manager to continue to operate, the result will be employees who are disengaged, don’t have a sense of belonging and will ultimately bring the organisation to its knees.
Building Sustainable Businesses
What then should organisations do in order to turn the corner into building sustainable businesses in the 4IR? The answer is that they need to build both the character and the competence of their leaders and then cascade this across and downward through the organisation.
Generally speaking, competence is present in the form of skills, knowledge and experience (although skillsets required are changing very quickly). What is missing is trust, managing and leading with EQ, a lack of client-centric thinking and decisions that are still based on quantitative data only rather than a combination of quantitative and qualitative human-centric information. Empathising with clients, customers and employees is a capability that largely escapes many executives and managers who are in it for themselves rather than leveraging the principles of exponential return that can come from putting the interests of others first.
It is my view that many organisations that have been victims of the 4IR (which has been accelerated by C19) can trace their demise back to the executives who were more interested in their comfort than their character. How do we know this? Well, take a look and see the absence of EQ and transformational leadership training in the WSPs of businesses. Despite trust being at an all-time low as a result of retrenchments, remuneration cuts, personal loss and the like, the absence of these initiatives is deafening.
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