The Top Skills You Need To Lead In Times Of Continuous Change

Dilipkumar Khandelwal

In times of digital transformation, change has become a constant. Guiding companies through their business transformation journey not only requires creating more agile organizational structures and processes, it also demands instilling cultural change. Business leaders need to transform their organization into an intelligent enterprise, rooted in a corporate culture that thrives on continuous change.

The transformation has to start from the heart of the organization. One of the most striking results in the 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey by PwC was that organizations are turning inward to drive revenue growth in an unpredictable international socio-economic environment. They are focusing on strengthening the organization’s digital core, closing capabilities gaps, and improving organizational efficiencies.

Embracing constant change at work does not happen overnight. It requires shifting mindsets and behavioral patterns. Here are the key leadership skills that help business and IT executives succeed.

Practice active listening

The number one priority in transformation processes is active listening. Organizational change can be unsettling. A work routine offers predictability. Changing job requirements demand leaving a familiar comfort zone. Listening can help to calm fears, recognize opportunities, and embrace a new style of work. While comfort zones can be reassuring, they are also confining and the nemesis of professional growth. Dedicate time to meet with individual teams to listen to their challenges, insights, goals, and ideas. Active listening helps identify the gaps between where we are and where we want to go as a team. These gaps are opportunities for growth for team members. Active listening helps the team become comfortable with being uncomfortable as a driver of change and renewal.

Create a networked organization

One of the top priorities for business transformation is to accelerate the speed of innovation and create a new dynamic within the organization that allows every employee to participate in the innovation process. Similar to the way daily work routines can confine growth opportunities, keeping collaboration within defined organizational structures can also curb innovation capabilities.  Approaches like design thinking help business leaders create a network organization with the potential to engage employees across the organization for the development of new products and services. A networked organization opens ups opportunities for teams to collaborate beyond the traditional mindsets and organizational boundaries.

According to Prof. Uli Weinberg and Dr. Claudia Nicolai, who teach design thinking at the Hasso-Plattner-Institute, “design thinking is creating innovation opportunities (within and across the organization) and is a leading principle of change of transformation. The organizational structure of a network offers new, dynamic ways of acting and reacting timely and efficiently – on an intra-organizational as well as on an inter-organizational level.”

Provide a North Star

Leading in an interconnected work environment with flexible processes and fluid teams requires striking a delicate balance between encouraging creativity and maintaining focus. Steering organizations through change is most successful when a clear purpose is the North Star, as it serves as an inspiration and compass for the team. Not having a purpose as the guiding force can be dire. The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 (published by EY, The Conference Board, and DDI) concluded that organizations that operated without a purpose-driven culture, or even a purpose statement, financially underperformed the average by 42%.

Last but not least, leading through change requires having the trust from the team to take the leap with you, or as Seth Godin recommends, “earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

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Dilip Khandelwal

About Dilip Khandelwal

Dilip Khandelwal is the Managing Director of SAP Labs India. He is a member of the SAP Global Executive Team reporting to the Executive Board. Dilip was recognized by The Economic Times as a ’40 under 40’ leader. In 2019, he was named among the Top 100 Great People Managers by the Great Manager Institute, in collaboration with Forbes India. The International Business Awards honored Dilip with a Silver Stevie Award as Executive of the Year in the Computer Software Industry. He is a NASSCOM Executive Council Member and sits on the Governing Council of the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad.