New year. New skills. New mindset.
Ever since the year 2020, the world has been shaken to the core by global crises: The coronavirus pandemic, wars, uprisings, and the energy and gas crisis in Europe have put an unprecedented strain on the economy and, as a consequence, on companies. What does this mean for managers tumbling from one commotion to the next? How is it possible to lead in a BANI world that is marked by chaos, insecurity, and utter unpredictability? Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, has looked at the skills and mindset executives will need most in the year to come.
“In 2020 and 2021, managers were busy steering their companies along the pandemic’s rollercoasters of crises while implementing remote and hybrid forms of working. In the year that followed, they have had to continue to develop new business models and establish and improve new modes of working,” Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, tallies.
As if that was not enough: With every new crisis and additional uncertainty, the world has drifted from being VUCADD (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, diverse, dynamic) to BANI (brittle, anxious, non-linear, incomprehensible). A step further from mere volatility, markets have become so brittle that they suddenly and unpredictably collapse, as shown by the unexpected bankruptcy of the crypto stock exchange FTX or the energy crisis. All this has led to a widespread feeling of insecurity.
With the right further education offers, managers and leaders do, however, have a way to set the course for a successful future – defying all uncertainties. These are the six must-haves that leadership development in 2023 needs to focus on to stay fit for the future:
“There is no more business as usual. Managers need to familiarize themselves with the topic of strategic foresight– because the next crisis is just around the corner. But with the right know-how and fitting tools, they can prepare for it,” Barbara Stöttinger reassures us. Strategic foresight is about first imagining different possible scenarios for the future and then strategically shaping them.
None of the scenarios will happen exactly as imagined, but having explored them in such a focused manner will help us make flexible, efficient, and quick decisions, no matter what the future will bring exactly.
The short program on „Strategic Management for Executives” at the WU Executive Academy, for instance, gives leaders valuable tools and methods to help them diagnose relevant developments early on, deal with unforeseeable challenges more efficiently, and plan strategically despite constant change.
Resilience will be the topic du jour in leadership development in 2023. “By becoming more resilient we can not only weather crises but accept them as a part of life,” Barbara Stöttinger says. This is what strategic business resilience is about and it’s important on both a personal and the corporate level: “Before the pandemic, major crises occurred about once a decade. When the virus first hit, many were confident that we would be through with it within six months tops. In the meantime, we find ourselves living in constant crisis mode. Instead of a 100-meter sprint, we have to soldier on and run a marathon, while simultaneously proving ourselves in all the different disciplines of a decathlon,” Barbara Stöttinger offers an analogy. Her advice is to accept crises and change as a part of life. “We learn to be resilient by acknowledging small steps towards success and accepting that things will never go back to the way they were. And we should always be thankful for what we have – especially the high standard of living we have been able to maintain compared to other countries,” Stöttinger opines. Focusing on one’s strength without drifting off into perfectionism can provide support in challenging times: “Even in a decathlon, you don’t need to be perfect in all ten disciplines. It’s enough to focus on your strengths as you go from one task to the next,” she says.
With the “Live Online Trainings” at the WU Executive Academy, managers can pick from a portfolio of seminars tailored to their own needs to provide them with more resilience during a crisis. Courses offered include mental training, conflict management, and systemic and integral self-leadership.
In times of crises, people are inclined to panic, i.e., they are either paralyzed with shock or start scrambling around for a solution. “When there are so many fires to put out, we tend to be easily distracted and overwhelmed,” Barbara Stöttinger empathizes. This makes the purpose of a company, which should also guide the company’s vision, all the more important. “A purpose helps us see what the company is here for, it provides long-term guidance. It’s an important compass that helps us reevaluate entrepreneurial decisions and measures from time to time,” Stöttinger specifies. This is also why purpose-driven leadership occupies a central role in executive education at the WU Executive Academy.
Self-leadership as a management skill is increasingly viewed as important: “During BANI times, executives are required to exercise self-leadership, take responsibility and encourage their employees to do the same, and bravely walk the untrodden path,” Barbara Stöttinger says. This will require empathy and intuition as well as a constructive way of dealing with emotions – one’s own just as much as those of others. “In our Senior Leadership Program, we dedicate a great amount of time to these pioneering qualities,” the Dean discloses.
The WU Executive Academy has always striven to create safe spaces for their peers to share their knowledge. “Such safe spaces and settings for collaborative learning, allowing participants to discuss topics, share tips and experiences, and start working together, are becoming ever more important. These virtual and physical spaces promote crowd intelligence, and everyone can take away valuable and practical insights,” Barbara Stöttinger says.
New technological advancements, such as Web3 with its virtual metaverses or cryptotrends like NFTs also open up new business fields and opportunities.
“With the right further education measures, executives can tap into new knowledge, align these developments with their skill set, and make more viable business decisions. By weighing new business opportunities constructively against possible risks, they will leave the crisis mode behind and enter on a path to self-empowerment,” Stöttinger predicts. For this purpose, the WU Executive Academy will offer a special course on Web3 and the metaverse from spring 2023.
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