The end of a brand is often a rotten confluence of events—economic trends, smart competitors, and changing technologies can all be the death knell for a company. However, leaders or leadership teams that stay balanced in their approach improve the odds of seeing potentially fatal challenges early enough to address them.
There is an interesting interplay between business failure and “unbalanced” leadership. An article in the Huffington Post recently chronicled the downfall of 9 iconic brands that “could soon be dead.” These brands vividly tell stories of leaders who either lost sight of the long term future or got sucked into focusing internally rather than on the external marketplace. The leaders and their organizations were unbalanced to a fault:
- Blackberry missed the evolution of the smartphone market as they focused on improving their existing customer functionality.
- JC Penney sought to drive short term performance through multiple waves of initiatives that undermined their brand and their customer loyalty (both long term assets).
- Volvo was so focused on their internal organizational transitions through multiple acquisitions that they allowed multiple competitors to enter their traditionally strong segments of the auto market.
More significantly, as each story evolves, there’s a pattern of deepening unbalance. The more challenging your business condition, the more difficult it becomes to take a different approach; the less resources you have to explore alternatives, the more volatile the internal debate becomes.
At Insight Experience, we teach balanced leadership as balancing three domains: your perspective (internal/external); your horizon (short term/long term) and your approach (cognitive/interpersonal). Through our business simulations, leaders practice behaviors around these domains and reflect on how and when to make midcourse corrections. As a leader, you have to stay balanced in your perspective and your horizon throughout both good and bad cycles of business performance. If you tilt too far too long in one direction or the other, you may lose your ability to bring the trajectory back into line.
Amanda Young Hickman is co-founder of Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich, immersive business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.