Balancing innovation and good leadership for growth


As we experience turbulent times, certain aspects of technology become more and more apparent. We are witnessing a time when for the first time in history, we are tracking a pandemic in real-time. Technology is being leveraged for information sharing and to ensure that people can be enabled to connect and work remotely. We are also seeing leadership being tested, there are no formal protocols for the expected response to such challenging events. Where do leaders turn when they have to deal with ambiguity and build their own protocols to effectively lead people in a time of crisis? There is always a counterbalance to difficulties that we are experiencing, organisations are being forced to balance innovation and good leadership in order to successfully navigate and innovate in this new way of working.

Every function in the organisation has a technology element associated with it, requiring leaders to examine new ways of integrating everything to manage their processes better. This does not only revolve around putting hardware, software, or cloud solutions in place and hoping for the best. Instead, it is finding the balance between technology and managing people in the most effective ways possible.

Good leaders must therefore use technology optimally in a distributed work environment as well as leverage analytics to understand data better for more informed decision-making. So, not only must they be able to interpret data in more advanced ways, all the other elements of innovation and good leadership still apply. These include the ability to work with people, understanding how to put teams together, solid communication, and having a strong EQ to name just a few.

And when it comes to leaders who are not familiar with technology themselves, the adage of hiring people better than you applies. The best leaders for the digital age are the ones who hire for the future and put people in positions to change the organisation and how it works. And just as the pressure is on employees to ensure they have the best possible skills in place, so too must leaders be willing to reskill themselves for the requirements of a connected environment.

Of course, just because sophisticated technologies are available, it does not necessarily mean the adoption cycle must change. As with anything, those disruptive forces will eventually become mainstream. It therefore does not make any sense to be an early adopter just for the sake of it. And this is where leaders have an integral role to play. They must understand the innovations happening in the market and how they can be applied to their industry sector.

Balancing act

Of course, this connected landscape is not without its own set of challenges. With the way people work and live becoming so intertwined, it is difficult to fully grasp the various personas needed to operate optimally. This makes it even more important for leaders to connect with people and explain the context of what is required.

For example, social media has shown that people understand the written word but there is very little room to read context or grasp subtle meanings. Leaders must therefore be able to communicate well across all platforms and convince employees to embrace new ways of working that will be beneficial to them, society and the organisation.

Data can be used internally to understand how individuals are using systems. Leaders can then determine whether the initiatives they are implementing are working. In the past, this feedback loop was quite slow. However, today it happens in virtually real-time thanks to the connectedness of things. All applications are instrumented at the core, think of the messages you get from Office 365 understanding Work Analytics. This can be applied to any deployed technology or way of working, ensuring that systems, processes and technology are being leveraged as expected. Technology has also made it simpler to conduct a spot test of people’s feelings and determining what is working and what is not.

Change all the way

Despite all this innovation and good leadership, data analysis and real-time insight are still one of the biggest stumbling blocks that revolve around the concept of change. The biggest mistake any organisation or leader can make is to treat change as an event. Instead, the mentality must be that change is constant and the company must embrace change as part of standard operations. This certainly applies to the change we are experiencing worldwide now. Change is difficult, not changing is just as difficult and can have more lasting negative impact. Look how long it took people to grasp the concept of “flattening the curve”?

It does provide opportunities to adopt new things in the business, but change comes from within as people buy into what companies and leaders are trying to do. This means that employees must be able to work with change. And if a leader cannot adequately communicate what the change is about, why do it in the first place? It is a leaders’ job to provide context and pace the change as required. External events can quicken this pace, this in turn puts pressure on leadership to go through their own processes to respond and pace the change appropriately.

Change is therefore a natural part of what happens at a company. Any good leader must continuously think about this change and how to adapt to it. An extension of this is to hire smart, manage easy with a view to build capacity inside the organisation. A true leader is not disconnected from what is happening in the company but should collaborate and bring people with them on the journey for growth.

Remaining innovative

In such a fast-moving environment, leaders must understand it is not about being number one but rather about harnessing the opportunities that exist. Many new entrants expand on an existing market but bring it to market in better and more innovative ways. We have seen this in banking, travel, sport and in so many areas we touch every day.

The South African market is big enough for companies to play at different levels and make money in unique ways. Technology can be deployed in any sector with space for different brands to do different things. It centres around finding unique ways of implementing innovation while providing the business with the leadership required to drive this.

Get in touch with us to ensure your business is technologically transformed in order to enable your business leaders to balance innovation and good leadership for the company’s growth.

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