20/08/10

By Andrew Lester, Managing Partner of Carr-Michael Consulting

Growth leadership requires different leadership skills to Operational leadership. It is the difference between managing tomorrow’s business (growth) and managing the day job today (operations). Growth is critical to all companies. Markets do not stand still, and companies that win know that they can’t stand still either — they have to grow.

If Operational leadership is wearing the “bowler hat” of today’s commercial reality, Growth leadership is wearing the “baseball cap”. These different hats reflect the core differences in the leadership approaches needed. Operational leadership is all about tight control, efficiency improvements, driving the cash and development from a well known base (mainly in the comfort zone). By contrast Growth leadership is about having a clear vision for the business and developing new propositions and offers that predict customer desires and provide better solutions to those new and emerging needs.

As such Growth leadership requires a very specific approach. Set against the background of a clear business strategy, it needs an open mind, a questioning and inquisitive approach that is comfortable with not knowing all you need to know, but with an ability and determination to find out. In defining new opportunities and propositions, Growth leadership requires creative thinking, significant challenges to the current “status quo”, and controlled risk taking away from the existing (core) business.

Growth leadership therefore focuses on “step change” development of the business. Growth from new products, new customer segments, and from defining new propositions to increase the lifetime value of current and future customers. In essence Growth leadership requires an ability to step back from the day to day operational pace and take stock of the moving state of your business and the market.

Defining the moving state of your business and market is core to delivering sustainable growth. It involves ensuring that you have a customer relevant business strategy, that you understand your core competencies and transferable capabilities, that you know where you can get considered and substantial support to plug any gaps in knowledge, skills or technology (e.g. suppliers, partnerships, acquisitions etc), and that you have great knowledge of how the market is developing, fragmenting and morphing and at what speed. Growth leadership therefore has to define not only what you need for the future to meet new market opportunities, but also what you no longer need for the future: skills and experience that are becoming less relevant or are no longer as highly valued.

In this way, Growth leadership is not just about being “creative” or “visionary”, it is also about being cold hearted and brutal. It is about reallocating the resources available from efficiencies delivered by Operational leadership, onto new and emerging markets. When growth opportunities push a business to work outside of their comfort zones, Growth leadership becomes critical. Before the new initiative can get off the ground it needs to be “sold” internally.....to operational people who are wary of change. The leadership skills needed to manage growth are therefore very different from those needed to operate the existing business.

Please feel free to comment by contacting me: andrewlester@carr-michael.com

Fresh Business Thinking and Carr-Michael Consulting have teamed up to deliver an engaging set of three seminars for business owners and directors of small to medium sized businesses - to take away with them the leadership keys to sustainable, profitable growth.

Andrew Lester will use his engaging style and deep experience to outline how to recognise your own core leadership style and how to produce a Two Hats approach: leading management of the Urgent and the Important side by side.

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