Leadership career
November 2, 2016

Is it the end of your leadership career as you know it?

By Tony Boobier

Our latest theme is your leadership career development.

Are you investing in your personal development? Do you have clear goals for your future as a customer insight leader?

Talking about leadership development with Paul Carroll (CEO of Insurance Thought Leadership), he referred me to a useful piece written by Tony Boobier. Tony is a former global insurance executive with IBM, who focusses on data & analytics.

With 30 years insurance industry experience, he understands the changes now facing the industry & leaders within it.

So, I’m delighted to kick off our focus on leadership career development, with this short piece by Tony. Food for thought on how two of our ‘worlds‘ collide.

How will increased use of data & analytics change the face of leadership & what you need to develop to succeed as a leader?

Over to Tony…

The collapse of organisational hierarchy (and heroes)?

As we focus on a world of data and analytics, we have to accept that this has the potential to create the collapse of organisational hierarchy.

As we think about the changes that will inevitably happen within the insurance industry, we also have to recognise that these changes will be reflected in a transformation of the leadership function.

Of course, we have to distinguish between leadership and organisational power. “Power” usually comes from the ability to influence and give direction to others and through hierarchy. The leadership role is often viewed as some form of organisational hero, who has the ability to take an organisation from a status of failure or inertia, to one of success. But is this hero model still valid, and will it be valid going forward?

Isn’t one of the main problems that the pace and complexity of change is so dramatic that so-called leaders are no longer able to draw on their own experience to help create a compass for the organisation? And without experience or adequate understanding, is there a risk that traditional leaders might simply revert to what they know, and create a drag on the business rather than provide the catalyst to drive it forward? In creating this drag, don’t the leaders themselves run the risk of personal criticism if their performance or ambition starts to dwindle?

New models of leadership

The paradox is that leadership can be both the cause of organisational weakness and also the cure, if implemented effectively.

Emerging theories of leadership point to a more devolved, flexible and decentralised model of leadership. A model that demands a shared, distributed and relation-based leadership ethos; with the emphasis on collaboration – as opposed to the old hierarchical model.

Has leadership become a process rather than a position? If that is the case, then does such an environment present us with the opportunity for a more fluid, richer leadership environment? No more Eureka moments, but rather that the leadership of an organisation is constantly shifting and is a reflection of the culture and shared values of the business?

And does it mean that anyone with the word “leader” in their job title – like mine – is toast? Yes, probably, unless as a leader you are personally prepared to change. If leadership is to exist in any form, then it will be by example. Leaders need to show how to collaborate, innovate and be agile. Leadership is no longer about holding the sword and shouting “follow me” or “do what I say.”

The catalyst for a revolution?

As we increasingly focus on a world of data and analytics, and the associated democratisation of understanding and insight, we have to accept that this has the potential to create the collapse of organisational hierarchy. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Data and democratised analytics inevitably force us to think about leadership in a different way. It might also force us to think about our own careers and professions in a different way, as well.

How we communicate these very major issues is also critical. If we accept that the big data genie is out of the bottle, then we must also accept that the metaphorical Pandora’s Box has been opened. Classicists will know that as Pandora’s Box was opened, then all the evils of the world were allowed to escape from that box. Of course, it’s not quite so dramatic – but will big data and analytics provide the catalyst for a revolution in what we mean by leadership?

What kind of leader will you be?

Thanks to Tony for those, somewhat disturbing, thoughts (depending where you currently sit in the hierarchy I suppose).

So, what do you think of Tony’s challenge? Will leadership in its current form have to evolve or collapse?

If you are currently a customer insight leader, how are you adapting your style? Are you role modelling a new way of working, based on collaboration & sharing insights?

Do please share your experience & any new approaches that are working for you…