- The manager administers; the leader innovates
- The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people
- The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust
- The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective
- The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why
- The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it
- The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing
But what are the elements that differentiate good leaders from great / simply irresistible leaders? Having studied leadership for over 15 years, I have come up with the following ten characteristics of simply irresistible leaders:
1.They are emotionally intelligent (EI)
EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we a) perceive and express ourselves b) develop and maintain social relationships c) cope with challenges, and d) use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way (H. Book & S. Stein). The Centre for Creative Leadership found that higher levels of EI are associated with better performance in the following Leadership areas:
- Self-awareness and self-control
- Achievement orientation
- Building and managing relationships
- Dealing with underperformance
- Focus, thinking skills and effectiveness
- Positive outlook, passion and inner motivation
2. They have a growth mindset
A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. A fixed mindset avoids failure at all cost. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities (Carol Dweck). Leaders with growth mindsets (a) perceive feedback as chance to learn and stretch goals as helpful and necessary, (b) put in the effort and are motivated by mastery, and (c) remain empowered, not helpless, in the face of difficulty.
3. They empower people
According to management consultants, Bersin & Associates leaders who create empowering cultures and organisations follow the following practices:
- Value and reward employees who learn new knowledge and skills
- Values mistakes and failures as learning opportunities
- Promote, recognise and reward collaboration
- Create psychologically safe environments where people can be themselves
- Invest time and energy in developing the capabilities of their teams
4. They grow other leaders
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing other leaders” (Jack Welch – Former GE CEO). A star wants to see himself/herself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him/her become stars” (Simon Sinek).
5. They create strong emotional connections
Our lives are becoming so transactional; full of activity and stimulation; continuously going from A to B to C and then back to A and B and so on and on (autopilot) that we might not any longer be connecting with the people we love, our colleagues, our customers, at a meaningful, emotional level. Irresistible leaders create strong positive emotional connections/bonds with people. They make us feel valued and earn our confidence, loyalty, and trust.
6. They are agile
Agile leaders have the ability to take effective action in complex, rapidly changing conditions; are resilient and quickly bounce back from difficulties and stressful situations; work effectively with a wide diversity of people and viewpoints; are inquisitive, adventurous and curious about people and situations; seek new approaches to solving problems and view mistakes as an opportunity to learn; and challenge the status quo, constantly seeking opportunities to innovate and improve. B. Joiner & S. Josephs in their book “Leadership Agility – 5 levels of mastery” state that “Only 5-10% of today’s managers have mastered the level of agility needed for consistent effectiveness in the turbulent era of global competition.”
7. They build trust and great teams
They build trust by being authentic, demonstrating that they care about people, being accessible, dependable and reliable, sharing information and knowledge, telling it straight and being honest even when giving bad news: role modelling the organisation’s values and expected behaviours, and actively listening to people. “Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t, it is a learnable skill. Teams and organisations that operate with high trust significantly outperform teams and organisations with low trust” FranklinCovey.
8. They inspire others
The word "inspiration" comes from the Latin noun inspiratio and from the verb inspirare. Inspirare is a compound term resulting from the Latin prefix in (inside, into) and the verb spirare (to breathe). That is, leaders who inspire other are “breathing life into” them – they are motivating their people to become the best they can be.
The following behaviours were identified by Bain as being the most powerful in contributing to a leader’s inspiration:
- Holding a confident yet realistic assessment of their own abilities
- Maintaining the conviction to follow their own course of action
- Showing passion for their work and giving energy to others
- Showing integrity, humility and empathy
- Putting team needs above short-term personal benefits
9. They use a coaching style
They stimulate thinking, growth, and unleash people's potential by challenging and supporting them to be at their best. They are courageous, compassionate, and curious. “The most effective leader coaches are deeply interested in the other person and how they see their circumstances – the staff member is not a problem to be solved, but a world to explore together. And they have the courage both to release control of the conversation and to ask those difficult and penetrating questions that access the “beneficially painful” aspects of the employee’s world” (David Clutterbuck)
10. They are mindful
Mindfulness can be defined as present-moment awareness with an observing, non-judging stance (Mikulas). Mindful leaders (a) find it easier to focus and remain focused. “I try to make every second count in my business and personal life” (R. Branson); (b) tend to make more rational business decisions (INSEAD Business School); (c) have better working memory; cope better with stress and stressful situations; are more creative (Leiden University); (d) have more highly engaged staff and higher engagement scores (J. Matthias, J. Narayanan & S. Chaturvedi); and (e) are more collaborative and stronger team players.
How irresistible are you as a leader? Why should anyone be led by you? What are your leadership strengths and area(s) for development? What can you start doing today to make you a simply irresistible leader? What can you start doing today that your future self will thank you for?
Pedro Angulo is the Programme Director of the IMI Diploma in Strategic HR Management. Pedro is an Organisational Effectiveness Business Partner in AIB and Chairperson of the Irish EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council). He is a motivational speaker and regular presenter at HR, coaching, change and business conferences/events. [post_title] => The ‘Simply Irresistible’ Leader [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => simply-irresistible-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 09:34:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=20226 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8268 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2014-09-29 11:53:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-09-29 11:53:40 [post_content] => Described as ‘The Jane Bond of Innovation’, Nilofer Merchant has grown businesses — from Fortune 500s and silicon valley web start-ups — for 20 years. She will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 9 October 2014. As an innovative thinker and practitioner, Nilofer will share her thoughts and experience on how we best align our organisations to succeed against our business challenges today and into the future. IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business - what would they be? NM: Not everyone will, but anyone can. IMI: What does this mean? NM: Most organizations think of work in boxes. As in engineering does this and marketing does that. Or, even more personally as Tom is responsible for delivering X and Susan is responsible for Y. This is to put work into neat little boxes to create some type of measurability. It’s a relic of the industrial era when the way to profitability and market performance was on efficiency and productivity. But if you look around your workplace, you’ll notice the most obvious truth. Most things are not failing because so and so didn’t do such and such. It’s because of a gap. A gap between organizational silos. A gap between understanding. A gap between the organizational boxes. In order to close the box, you need to organize not around boxes but around purpose. Organize not by “who should be here” but who wants to be here. And while not everybody will rise up to solve the situation, create new products, etc … what you’ll discover is an amazing reserve of talent that exists. Things you didn’t know were possible will happen. Because anybody can. IMI: Where should we look for further information? NM: Visit my website nilofermerchant.com Nilofer Merchant is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 9 October. If you are interested in attending click here to register. [post_title] => "Not everyone will, but anyone can" Six Word Wisdom from Nilofer Merchant [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => everyone-will-anyone-can-six-word-wisdom-nilofer-merchant [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:48:47 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:48:47 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=8268 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13880 [post_author] => 72 [post_date] => 2016-02-17 08:51:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-17 08:51:34 [post_content] =>
There are now about two million people who are in work in Ireland. Of these, about half a million work in the public sector in areas such as administration, teaching and health. The rest are employed in the private sector.
Considering its centrality to our everyday prosperity, the private sector is oddly depicted in our culture. The big businessman is always the baddie. Just think: Mr Burns in The Simpsons, Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, or Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Source: www.axiomcommunications.comOn that basis, it’s good to see that a movie has just come out that portrays financiers in a more realistic light: as intelligent people who take risks to make money in a complex financial world in which there are winners, but, by extension, plenty of losers. The Big Short, released on January 22 2016, is based on an adaptation of the adage of “buy low, sell high” among stock market traders. Going “short” simply reverses the sequence by aiming to “sell high, buy low”. To put it simply, you sell a stock that you don’t own and think is overvalued and undertake to close the transaction by buying it back later. The protagonists of The Big Short, based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, realise in the mid-2000s that the US housing market is an accident waiting to happen and that it is a big candidate to be “shorted”. It examines several different individuals who independently reached such a conclusion and who had the guts to back that insight with their own cash. As one Bloomberg View writer put it: “It isn’t a spoiler alert to say that the financial world collapses, the protagonists get rich and no one lives happily ever after.” The most compelling story was that of Michael Burry. He was the founder of the Scion Capital hedge fund which he operated from 2000 to 2008. Mr Burry initially qualified as a medical doctor and left work as a neurologist to pursue his hobby and become a full-time investor. In 2001, Mr Burry’s first full year at the hedge fund, the S&P 500 index fell 11.88 per cent but Scion was up 55 per cent, according to Lewis. The next year, the index fell again, by 22.1 per cent, and yet Scion was up again: 16 per cent. In 2003, the stock market finally turned around and rose 28.69 per cent, but Mr Burry beat it again — his investments rose by 50 per cent. By the end of 2004, he was managing $600 million and, as Mr Lewis put it, was “turning money away”. It was at this point that Mr Burry focused on the US housing market. As the market collapsed spectacularly and others lost lots of money, he was still in profit because he had correctly predicted what would happen. He later said he shorted mortgages because he had to. “Every bit of logic had led me to this trade and I had to do it,” is how he put it. He has also pointed out that he did not benefit from taxpayer-funded bailouts as he liquidated his shorted positions by April 2008. One thing is clear from all of this. Mr Burry is worth listening to, especially when it comes to issues relating to the financial markets. In a recent interview with New York magazine, he gave some hints about where the next big-short trading opportunities may come from. He said that he had hoped after the crash that the world would enter a new era of personal responsibility, but instead we “doubled down on blaming others and this is longterm tragic”. On this basis, the Irish response might not impress Mr Burry. Our reaction to our own banking crisis has been to blame bankers for lending to us rather than to reflect on whether we were wise to borrow and to invest in overvalued property. Instead of learning lessons, it would appear that we have simply sought out scapegoats to evade personal responsibility. Mr Burry’s comment that “if a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it” is not one that sits easily in Irish public debate even if it is little more than a statement of the obvious. The hedge fund manager is not happy either with the current state of global financial markets, which he believes are once again trying to stimulate growth through easy money. “It hasn’t worked, but it’s the only tool the Fed’s got,” he said. Mr Burry is worried that the markets are using interest rates to “price-risk”, but that mechanism is broken as the interest rates of central banks have been kept for many years at close to zero. Worse still, he thinks that by using low interest rates to fight the aftermath of one bubble going bust, central banks may just support the development of more bubbles. That’s the big risk today, but it’s also how the US housing market developed into a bubble a decade ago. In combating the economic decline after the internet bubble went bust in 2000, Mr Burry argues that the Fed kept US interest rates too low for too long. He argues that we are building up “terrific stresses in the system” and any fault lines will harm the outlook. The problem with this conclusion is that, despite our progress, Ireland remains one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world. We would face a heavy cost if they were to rise again.
Let us be grateful then that Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, doesn’t agree with Mr Burry and that eurozone interest rates are likely to remain low for several years to come.
1. What is the chief thing that managers/leaders get wrong about what effective leadership means today, in your experience?Managers often don't understand what their teams really do. They understand the structures, the processes, the systems. But this is not what people do – it is what people are supposed to do. A company's performance or a department's performance is what it is because people do what they do, because of their actions, decisions and interactions – their "behaviours". Because we don't understand what people do, we create solutions – new structures, processes, systems, scorecards, incentives, training, and communication – that don't address the root causes. We don't solve the problem, we simply add more internal complicatedness. And the more complicatedness we create, the less we understand what is really happening, the thicker the smoke screen, and then the more rules we add. This is the vicious circle of modern management. This is why the first rule of what I call Smart Simplicity is "understand what people really do at work."
2. Do leadership principles work best when understood as a top-down process, or is this understanding of leadership out of touch with the modern workplace?From collaboration to performance to employee engagement, everything we know about work is changing – but our businesses are seemingly slow to respond. People are more attuned to sharing posts, writing blogs, and providing instant feedback through ‘likes’ and ‘favourites’ than they are to completing surveys, so why does our approach to employee engagement still centre on a set of fixed statements and a rating scale? In their personal lives people collaborate naturally with those around them and have an amazing propensity to share even when there is no immediate benefit to them, hence the success of crowdsourcing sites like Wikipedia. So, why do we spend so much time and energy in organisations on encouraging people to practice these seemingly natural behaviours at work? The challenge for businesses is to disrupt every process and practice in the organisation by asking: Why does it exist? What are we trying to achieve? If we were to start the organisation from scratch, would we choose to create this? And perhaps most tellingly of all, would this practice exist if we trusted our employees?
3. A core feature of your approach to leadership and better workplace productivity is the concept of ‘Smart Simplicity’. How does this play out in a world where the data available to companies now – be it through consumer feedback, predictive modelling, data analytics etc – has surged? Does the effective use of all of this data necessitate more complexity, rather than simplicity?The environment is more complex – the problems to resolve in order to attract and retain customers, in order to create value and build competitive advantage – are more demanding than in the past. This is a fact of life. Based on our analysis, complexity has been multiplied by 6 over the last 60 years. The real problem is not business complexity. The real problem is internal complicatedness – the solutions companies typically use to try to respond to this complexity: a proliferation of cumbersome structures, interfaces, coordination bodies and committees, procedures, rules, metrics, key performance indicators and scorecards. Based on our analysis this complicatedness has been multiplied by 35! This complicatedness creates obstacles to productivity and innovation. People spend their time writing reports, in meetings. There is more and more work on work, and less and less work! A lot of data, a lot of information is always good. The difficulty – and the value-added – is sense-making, to derive meaning and knowledge from the data, so that companies can interpret and act on the data. But complicatedness makes it increasingly difficult for companies to make sense of the data. There is at the same time a data indigestion and a knowledge deprivation.
4. When it comes to Irish businesses, how do their workplace dynamics compare with other countries and what would be your principal advice to them on what to change?Irish businesses face the same problems as other mature economies. They need to manage the new business complexity without getting complicated. Smart Simplicity is not about becoming simplistic, we cannot ignore the new complexity of business. This is why I refer to "Smart" simplicity. The six rules of Smart Simplicity concern Irish businesses because Irish businesses are also confronted to a greater complexity.
5. Should business leaders focus more on improving employee productivity per se, or should this be balanced with also ensuring that staff are happy at what they do and not afraid to be creative? How does one strike an effective balance?We must not strike a balance here! We must break the compromise between productivity and happiness or creativity. We must not improve one at the expense of the other. In fact organizational complicatedness hinders productivity while demotivating people and making them suffer at work. They lose direction, purpose and meaning in the labyrinth. They have to work longer and longer, harder and harder, but on less and less value-adding activities. This is why Smart Simplicity and removing complicatedness simultaneously increases performance and satisfaction at work: because you remove the root-cause common obstacles that hinder both.
6. What do you think are the key organisational challenges that face a country like Ireland over the next few years, for both business managers/leaders and their staff?Organizations are going through a deep revolution in their ways of working. We are going through a new economic revolution, and every economic revolution entails and organizational revolution. The organizational solutions on which we have built profitable growth over the last 30 years are obsolete. Irish managers and employees will have to invent new ways of working. Smart Simplicity provides guidelines for this, but what mainly matters is boldness and courage in breaking with conventional wisdom. Irish people are certainly well placed in this respect! Yves Morieux is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. Apologies but this event has now reached maximum capacity. [post_title] => "Understand what people do at work" Six Word Wisdom from Yves Morieux [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => understand-people-work-six-word-wisdom-yves-morieux [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:27:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:27:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=12166 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8958 [post_author] => 18 [post_date] => 2015-02-10 17:34:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-02-10 17:34:20 [post_content] => To receive updates on new blogs posts : Follow @IMI_Ireland My experience working with a wide range of young businesses, from complex financial software through to artisan food producers says, it is easy to get distracted by products and forget that the underlying success drivers are the same regardless of what you make or do. A visit to The Climbing Wall in Sandyford, a 3 week old fledgling business already packed with happy customers on a freezing January night made me stop to think. What gets customers in this case to a business with no marketing or advertising budget? What separates success and disaster for a young business in the early scary days? “The wall” is an indoor state of the art climbing wall in Sandyford industrial estate. So, your business is very different, but the same answers apply and will help you succeed early.
- Passionate attention to all customers, including the ones future customers. I dragged along a friend who doesn’t climb, and had no intention of doing so. She instantly felt welcome, even though climbing up the wall until then was something she only does at business meetings. Your customers may come in many forms and will have different needs. See the world from their perspective – are they confused? Scared? Stressed? Finding it hard to park? At the Wall you feel safe and at ease. And yes, of course, she climbed. And is now hooked.
- Create a happy place where staff are as engaged as you are in looking after customers with care. Your staff must feel like a really core part of your baby business. Get them on board and make sure to find ways of harnessing all their bright ideas about how to make your project a success
- Know your customers intimately before you start. Alan and Brian really understand their market, and are well networked. They already understood exactly what climbers want and immediately ran simple high impact events that have built up loyalty, traffic to The Wall and loads of Word of Mouth publicity, always the most powerful form of marketing. This also helps you create a sense of community and shared values among your customer base, so your customers stay longer and believe in what you do. Happy customers come back.
- Be clever about how to position and communicate what you offer: .The Wall makes canny use of social media and press coverage to get the story out in a more targeted and dynamic way than any ad ever will. Network, but be savvy about how you use that precious network.
- Know your competition equally intimately, know when to compete (and how) and when to collaborate. Sometimes collaboration is the right strategy – work together and instead of splitting a new small market you can grow it together, creating greater awareness by acting as a group and attracting more people to a new service or product.
- Good team - make sure all the practical stuff is under control. The top team here includes a marketing whizz and an employment law specialist. They have team skills to make sure the business is set up on a sound financial footing, property and planning skills and expertise to make sure design and operations are top class.
- Finally – do something you love. The chances are you will be very good at it!
RS: "Think like a biologist"
IMI: What does this mean? RS: There is a dangerous tendency for people to look at businesses and markets as though they were pieces of engineering: and should be managed and understood in Newtonian terms. Today more than ever it's more useful - at least most of the time - to use the mental models we use to understand complex and evolving systems. Source:www.askabiologist.asu.edu IMI: Where should we look for further information? RS: A great first place to start is by reading Robert H Frank's book The Economic Naturalist, and his later work The Darwin Economy. Nassim Taleb's Antifragile is a long but mind-reshaping read. The other areas of worthwhile study are evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics. These seek to understand how (and why) people - often unconsciously - make decisions in reality, and why this may differ from narrow and naive theories of economic rationality. Where to start here? Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein. And The Rational Animal by Griskevicius and Kenrick. Sapiens, by Noah Harari, Butterfly Economics by Ormerod, Adapt by Tim Harford and The Origins of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker would also be an essential read. Rory Sutherland s a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 8 October. This event has now reached maximum capacity however if you would like to be added to the waiting list, please email your contact details and company name to email@example.com. [post_title] => "Think like a biologist" Six Word Wisdom from Rory Sutherland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => think-like-biologist-six-word-wisdom-rory-sutherland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:28:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:28:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=11950 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 16058 [post_author] => 89 [post_date] => 2016-09-20 14:18:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-20 14:18:38 [post_content] => Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he teaches courses on Leadership and Strategy. He is also the Faculty Director of the flagship Tuck Executive Program, and has experience working with executives at a number of other prestigious universities around the world. His latest bestselling book is SUPERBOSSES: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent. He will be a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference on 29th September 2016. IMI: Based on your current work – if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business – what would they be?
SF: Great leaders create other great leaders.IMI: What does this mean? SF: Imagine a world where the work you did really mattered. Where the person who you call your boss changed your life by helping you accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Where your own opportunities would multiply in ways you may have been afraid to even dream of. That’s the world of “superbosses”, leaders with an incredible track record of generating world-class talent time and again. By systematically studying business legends and pop culture icons like Lorne Michaels, Ralph Lauren, George Lucas, Larry Ellison, Miles Davis, Charlie Mayfield, and Alice Waters, what superbosses actually do comes into focus. And anyone can do these same things. Superbosses identify, motivate, coach and leverage others in remarkably consistent, yet highly unconventional and unmistakably powerful ways. Superbosses aren’t like most bosses; they follow a playbook all their own. They are unusually intense and passionate — eating, sleeping, and breathing their businesses and inspiring others to do the same. They look fearlessly in unusual places for talent and interview them in colorful ways. They create impossibly high work standards that push protégées to their limits. They partake in an almost inexplicable form of mentoring, one that occurs spontaneously and with no clear rules. They lavish responsibility on inexperienced protégées, taking risks that seem scary and foolish to outsiders. When the time is right superbosses may even encourage star talent to leave so they can then become part of a strategic network of acolytes in the industry. IMI: Where should we look for further information? SF: I put together a list of interesting articles related to this subject: Superbosses aren't afraid to delegate their biggest decisions The rise of the superbosses George Lucas: Management Guru? The Power of Feeling Unthreatened Hire People and Get Out of the Way Sydney Finkelstein is a keynote speaker at the IMI National Management Conference taking place on Thursday 29th of September. To register for this event, please click here. [post_title] => "Great leaders create other great leaders" Six Word Wisdom from Sydney Finkelstein [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => great-leaders-create-great-leaders-six-word-wisdom-sydney-finkelstein [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-11-08 10:06:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-11-08 10:06:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.imi.ie/?p=16058 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
The Right Plan, the Right Tech, the Right People – the Future of Financial Services in the Digital Age
IMI sat down with the economist Chris Roebuck to discuss the future of financial services, and what leaders from banking, fintech, big tech, start-ups and the regulators themselves need to do in this new environment.
The financial services sector is changing almost beyond recognition.
Hyper personalisation, digitisation, increased regulation, both disruptive start-ups and major brands entering the market at an increasing pace… these are just some of the challenges facing traditional operators and burgeoning competitors.
Q. What are the big challenges in the financial sector right now?
The financial services world is going through significant transformation driven by a wide variety factors from customer expectations to digital developments. The breadth of these changes is increasing complexity, and all this within a regulatory environment.
Not only are these changes large, but they are also happening rapidly, introducing totally new business models.
This mean that the route to future success may well be based on actions that the organisation has absolutely no previous experience of. So unlike previous change where institutions changed piecemeal now the structure and entire way of working is transforming at the same time.
This is unprecedented.
It’s also in areas we don’t first think of. The impacts of fintech are often seen as being about the tech elements of the organisation but they also have significant impact on people.
Since the financial crisis employment in banking has dropped by over 40% in Europe. Not only that but the type of people you now need is changing as well, so you need not only fewer people you need a different internal demographic as well. That’s not easy to achieve.
Q. In your own experience, what is digital in particular doing to the way the financial services industry is operating?
It is changing the whole way that organisations work top to bottom. That’s challenging enough, but even more challenging is changing the mindset of people who have worked (and developed their way of thinking) in a non-digital environment.
What should be happening and what is happening are perhaps slightly different. Inevitably people and organisations need to recognise the need for change, and that in itself can take time. Some parts of financial institutions have traditionally been slow to change. But change is being forced on them.
I would say digital is enabling:
- New disruptive competitors emerging
- Changing customer expectations
- A deeper look at the cost of legacy systems – is there a cheaper way of doing what we do?
And these are combining with:
- Low interest rates
- A regulatory burden that never decreases
As a combination of circumstances, that’s pretty much a game changer – a new world you need to move into or face a slow decline into failure.
Q. Where does the greatest challenges lay – let’s take the traditional banks first – is it getting the right technology, developing internal people to utilise that technology, or hiring great external people to drive the change?
I think there is a step that precedes all of those – what is our optimum market and customer? There is a real possibility that this may have changed with the digital revolution and arrival of new players.
Customers are not homogenous, their demographics, incomes, expectations, mindsets, and even lifestyles are all different and maybe dynamic. Yesterday’s profitable customer may not be tomorrows.
Customers increasingly want 24/7 availability, real-time capability, personalised offerings and a low friction user experience. Once you know who your customer of the future is then it’s about matching the technology, the people and the strategy to serve that customer.
Q. It must be a real challenge for the regulators too – do you see the development going on there that will need to be done to keep up with the changing marketplace?
Definitely. Albeit with a few surprises. Regulations traditionally have been a step behind what’s happening in the industry, and often regulation is a result of someone doing something they shouldn’t, which then becomes regulated to prevent a repeat.
So, to some degree regulators are always trying to keep up with what’s happening at the leading edge, if not predict where that leading edge is going next and where the systemic risks might be.
There is also an element of a need for differential regulation where regulators are more flexible with new entrants to encourage new players to help them develop. This requires a flexibility within the regulators not traditionally present.
Q. What are the specific things leaders should be looking to do? What’s the right mindset to have in a shifting environment?
It’s all about the fundamental questions of “where do we need to be in the future”, “where are we now” and “how do we get there”. These questions need to be answered to provide a clear and simple strategy to deliver a sustainable and profitable future. The problem is that gaining such clarity in such a complex and dynamic environment is very difficult for most senior leaders.
Their traditional career development has given them an in-depth understanding of their area of expertise but to answer these key questions (and indeed be a credible and effective strategic leader for their organisations) requires an understanding of the big picture both inside and outside their organisations – the evolving ecosystem.
That’s what they need; the critical knowledge of the wider ecosystem, market dynamics, and the leading-edge developments available to them. This combined with the enhancement of their leadership will enable them to guide their teams, colleagues and organisation to have that profitable and sustainable future.
So, it’s not just about being in the market, it’s about being a market leader in all senses.
Chris Roebuck is programme director for the Future of Financial Services Leadership programme, aimed at preparing leaders in the sector for the future economy. The programme is in association with IFS Skillnet and the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland. Chris was Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership Cass Business School London 2009 -18.