To win tomorrow, create and cultivate new leaders today
Fast Company editor Polly LaBarre explains the new leadership agenda at Racine’s Sustainable Community Series
By Kay Falk, for SBT
As senior editor and the public face of Fast Company magazine, Polly LaBarre shares its mission to explore today’s business world with "the intensely competitive but often unsung heroes and rising stars at companies across America," as she puts it.
Those ideas are designed to explain how the business game and competition have changed, and to equip readers to be successful in this new business environment.
Winning in business was the focus of her recent speech in Racine — "The New Leadership Agenda — Are You Navigating or Just Weathering the Storm?" LaBarre spoke as part of the Racine Sustainable Community Series, sponsored by SC Johnson and the Racine County Economic Development Corp., on May 22. Prior to her visit, she shared these thoughts with Small Business Times:
— This battered economy is all we have. "Recession, recovery, a falling stock market, slowdowns, war, unemployment and layoffs, corporate greed and dishonesty — these constant economic pressures have people waiting for the next big thing to happen," she says.
"People have to stop waiting for the rest of their lives to begin — and stop hoping for some killer app to come along and jumpstart the economy," LeBarre says. "The reality is, the next thing has started. This is it. Great things will happen, new ideas will get funded and companies will grow, but it won’t happen as quickly or dramatically as it did from 1995 to 1999."
— Former "givens" won’t work. Most facets of the business world have changed. There are continual advances in digital technology, global competition, deregulated industries such as telecommunications and energy and a shift in younger people’s expectations about business, lifestyles and why people work in the first place.
"The notion that you can do business in the same old way and be the kind of a leader that rallies the ‘troops’ to blindly follow you won’t work anymore," she says.
At the same time, LaBarre says, "We need to forget everything we learned about time (faster is better), about how money works (there’s no free capital anymore) and leadership. There’s a new concept of ‘normal’ that we focused on as the cover story in our May issue, and it affects how you go about equipping future leaders."
— Winning companies are different. "My talk focuses on what it takes to win in business today. My key points are that real winners compete on ideas," she emphasizes. "Strategic originality is a requirement if you want to even be in the game today. At the same time, the best companies understand that they don’t prosper at the expense of customers."
She continues, "In many ways, the past decade has been a betrayal of all the business world’s promises to customers. How many really satisfied customers are there? Winning companies are serious, and seriously creative about their relationship with their customers."
LaBarre adds, "Real winners are as disciplined as they are creative. They execute relentlessly and understand the need to be creative in that execution."
* Leaders help everyone in the company succeed. "The businesses that truly succeed in the future will be the ones that do the best job of creating the most confident and committed leaders, deepest in the ranks," she emphasizes. "That’s what success – both at the individual and the organization levels – really hinges on."
May 30, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee