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Technology is Great, but Great Leadership is Better

by SUMMIT on September 16th, 2015

Technology is Great, but Great Leadership is Better

As organizations prepare for digital transformation, or at least incorporate new technologies into their operations, the business world is becoming more exciting and challenging. Thanks to rapid advances in technology, there are more opportunities in business than ever before. But, every opportunity comes with its own share of difficulties and challenges. Too many organizations are struggling to adapt to this new, fast-paced environment. And adapt they must. A new report has concluded that 40 percent of industry incumbents will be displaced in the next five years due to digital disruption. How can companies survive this coming wave of disruption?

Studies have established that successful adoption of new and emerging technology is driven from the top down. This is why modern companies must have strong, solid leadership, on order to push for innovation, and embrace—even drive—change.

But, what does it take to be a great leader? Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find myriad articles and books galore on leadership. But reading about how to be a great leader, and actually being on, are two very different ballgames. The ability to make difficult decisions in a high-risk environment is what really sets a leader apart.

What Makes a Great Leader?

George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, FAPA, “one of the founding fathers of the modern era of stress management” and a co-author of STRONGER: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed, identified resilience—the ability to rebound from failure—as the quality that lies at the core of decision-making prowess. A resilient leader is characterized by optimism, tenacity, and has a healthy appetite for risk. These are the leaders who “can create an organizational climate that fosters innovation and longevity.”

Think of great business leaders throughout history and you will find resiliency at the core of their success, and it is most often demonstrated in their ability to rebound, and keep rebounding, from failure. Look at Milton Hershey, the founder of The Hershey Company and one of the great entrepreneurs of the 20th century. You can’t think of chocolate these days without the Hershey name popping to mind. But, are you aware that he was bankrupt by the age of 30 and failed twice in the candy business, before finally finding success with his third attempt?

If you learn Milton Hershey’s history, you will understand the resiliency it took to continue to work away with failure breathing down his neck, all the while taking risks and making bold decisions. Great leaders all share the ability to ignore or deal with their fear of failure and be decisive in the face of great risks.

The Integrity Formula

Dr. Everly has developed a self-analysis formula, called the Integrity Formula, to help people make better decisions, consisting of the following five questions aspiring leaders need to ask themselves before taking a challenging step.

  1. Am I being deceptive?
  2. What are the most likely unintended consequences of my decision?
  3. Does my action hurt anyone?
  4. Would I be uncomfortable if those I love learned of my actions (spouse, children, parents, etc.)?
  5. Would I be hurt or angry if someone did this to me?

Other Signs of Great Leadership

In addition to resiliency and decisiveness, there are other qualities that great leaders share:

They walk the talk. Contrary to what many believe, the responsibilities of a leader include more than simply giving out orders; they need to be equally committed and motivated the do the task on their own, should the need arise. After all, true insights are gained while working in the trenches.

They are accountable. A true leader stands before his team, and will be the first one to take accountability for mistakes. People look up to an accountable leader as trustworthy, reliable, and as someone who has their back.

They don’t command and control. Instead, they listen, empathize, and cooperate. In fact, humility is another prized yet underrated quality of great leadership.

They are intuitive. Oftentimes, unforeseen situations cause pre-set plans to go awry. Great leaders are prepared for such moments with their laser-sharp focus and even sharper intuition. These are times that test a leader’s decision-making abilities.

“Going digital” is often misunderstood as increasing the rate of purchase and use of tech tools. This leads many companies to believe that “what ails them” can be cured almost exclusively by technology, but this is far from the truth. The fact is—technology can never compensate for a lack of organizational focus and/or ineffective leadership. Your tech-cupboards may be well-stocked with the most advanced video conferencing systems, collaboration tools, or devices, but without strategical, mission-focuses leadership, technology is just a hammer looking for a nail.

Photo Credit: Akenore via Compfight cc

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