Corporate Leadership Involves Growing Pains
Drew Dudley "Everyday Leadership" - TED Talks [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HR2UnsOuKxo]
It's a fairly fine line we business leaders walk. On one side are shareholders and directors who scrutinize the bottom line. On the other are the people in our organizations whom we expect will create and maintain a pipeline of innovative offerings.
The issue is that the innovation process can be relatively expensive and unpredictable. Major shareholders and company directors obviously want the same results as your R&D people, but they prefer those results to happen within a specific set of cost guidelines. The reason you're in the C-suite to begin with is that you can presumably bridge those two outlooks and make the organization work as one.
When Eric Schmidt, the hard-driving CEO of Google, first joined that company in 2001, one of the young founders, Sergey Brin, told a reporter that Schmidt's appointment was to bring "parental supervision, to be honest" to the company. To me, that remark captures the essence of the kind of organization many of us are attempting to build in the digital world. We want to be as competitive as possible, especially with fierce, new upstarts nipping on our heels every day.
We also have a responsibility to ensure that the organization embraces best practices and is soundly managed. In fact, I'm eagerly awaiting Eric Schmidt's new book, to be published next fall, titled No Adult Supervision Required: How To Build Successful 21st Century Companies. After announcing that he would be stepping down as Google's CEO, Schmidt tweeted that "day-to-day adult supervision [was] no longer needed" at the company.
However, many of us - depending on where we were during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s - recall all too well that many technology start-ups fizzled not because of their lack of smart people or innovative ideas. They couldn't survive because there was nobody to execute the big, day-to-day decisions an enterprise needs to grow. Even Schmidt recently said that getting products right requires attracting and managing a new breed of technically savvy workforce. His new book, he said, offers a practical and accessible guide for how to do that.
Therein lies the secret to creating an effective organization for the long-term: knowing how to manage the new breed of technology workers. Just as technology itself is changing rapidly, so, too, are the innovators behind it. The fine line that we walked as business leaders even five years ago won't cut it anymore. We need to be more responsive to the needs and concerns of their younger, more dynamic workforce.
The good news, I think, is that we are increasingly aware of these new realities. We're more responsive to the challenges that a business leader must face in a marketplace defined and shaped by new technologies.