There were businesses in the 3IR who managed to trade and grow for decades in a relatively constant trading environment where the “bell curve” demonstrated the pace of change. Many of these organisations are no longer around and the question that begs to be answered is whether there is a golden thread that underpins whether businesses will be beneficiaries or casualties in a disruptive environment.

A deep dive into many case studies – such as Blockbuster, Kodak, Nokia as well as other household names in South Africa who have liquidated or been battered in the past two years – reveals interesting similarities in seeking cause and effect of their respective fates. The reality is that business need to respond to exponential change while people only change logarithmically which leaves a glaring strategic gap.

The Role Of Leadership In A Disruptive Environment

The first port of call in seeking answers to this matter, is leadership. Leadership set the tone. However, in a disruptive environment leaders are still too focused on taking charge of those in their care, rather than equally taking care of those in their charge.

This view of Simon Sinek hits at the heart of the matter. Work and personal life have become intertwined and the emotional impact of change, disruption and loss must be dealt with if employees are to perform. Heightened emotions are people issues and people issues can only be addressed through human connection.

Sadly, many managers do not see it this way and adopt a ‘rank-and-yank’ attitude of fit in or else. In this way entire businesses collapse over time as employees do not trust their managers. They withhold innovation and creativity as well as do just enough to get by. This is a recipe for disaster.

On the contrary, leaders who connect with their employees, create a circle of trust and who are able to exercise EQ off the back of knowing who they are – and taking the time to get to know their colleagues – will not only enjoy more energy and innovation, but also be more agile and resilient. Operational execution is the natural result of strong trust where people are valued, listened to and engaged.

Take a look at the workplace skills plans of 95% of businesses and it will be clear that managing with EQ is not a priority. The secret of an organisation’s future is hidden in the cumulative routines of its employees and leaders. It is this inability to empathise, identify the needs of clients and employees (human-centricity) that is probably one of the most significant reasons for businesses being casualties rather than beneficiaries of change.

If you’d like to get in touch, please don’t hesitate to contact me on [email protected].

Kind regards,

John Botha