Thinking like an enterprise leader: the mindset to accelerate corporate and individual success

14 Jun 2022

Thinking like an enterprise leader: the mindset to accelerate corporate and individual success

As the business environment evolves, the demand for an enterprise mindset doesn’t only involve CEOs.

Promoting from within is, on the face of it, the ideal solution. It should be less disruptive, and a clear motivation to others with ambition within the organization and it’s a rich return on all the time and costs developing talent within the company.

But when it comes to the top job, the stakes are a lot higher and the step up a much more demanding one.

It’s a step on which many stumble.

"There are very few managerial transitions that offer more of a challenge than moving from leading a function to leading an entire enterprise for the first time", states Manuela Klos, Associate Partner at Odgers Berndtson Germany.

The newbie faces a job whose scope and complexity is dramatically increased. Little wonder more than a few ambitious executives have found that the job they have always coveted is simply beyond them once they have their feet under the CEO’s desk.

It is not only lonely at the top, but also very difficult too.

A shortage of enterprise leadership potential

As Wharton University points out, ‘….while 67% of leaders excel at key competencies, and 82% are meeting the objectives of their business unit, only 12% are true “enterprise leaders.”’

To understand what is required of leaders, it is important to understand what the transition from unit or division leader to overall leader of the entire enterprise is all about.

International Institute for Management Development’s (IMD) Michael Watkins found in his research that, at this turning point for upwardly mobile executives, he counted seven seismic shifts required in a leader’s focus and skills.

  • From being a specialist to a generalist.
  • From analyzing data to integrating knowledge from multiple sources.
  • From implementing tactics to developing strategies.
  • From being ‘ bricklayers’ into organizational architects.
  • From problem solvers into agenda setters.
  • From ‘warriors’ intent on beating the competition into diplomats who engage with a full range of stakeholders.
  • Finally, leaders must move out from the wings and get used to living on centre stage in the full spotlight.

Thinking like a CEO, even though you’re not

Interesting, there is evidence that as the business environment becomes increasingly complex, moves faster and faster, and is perpetually changing, the CEO’s brand of decision making is increasingly being dispersed to lower levels in the organization.

As Harvard Business Publishing points out, without the time to wait for decisions to be made at the top of the organization and then work their way down to the implementation team, the leaders of that team are increasingly needing to act as ‘little CEOs’, at least in some aspects of their function.

One aspect that stands out is that the decision-makers at both the highest strategic level and those at the everyday tactical level need to be on the same page when it comes to three competencies: strategy, the realities of the market they are operating in, and being conversant in financial matters.

Research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that over 65% of leaders in their survey agreed that insufficient business acumen, as typified by the three factors mentioned above, was a primary factor in limiting their organization’s ability to realize strategic goals.

Developing that acumen, the baseplate for spotting opportunities and threats, means having the right answers to questions like, what makes your company thrive, how can you tell if your company is thriving, how does your company’s business run (ie business model) and how can it compete successfully in the market (ie strategy)?

Win, win situation

Having leaders at all levels who can answer these questions is not just a boost for the organization, bit it’s a win at the individual level too.

If you know how the organization really works and you are able (and empowered) to use this knowledge to help make better decisions, you are likely to feel more connection to the organization and ultimately more satisfied about the job you do.

It is a heightened sense of purpose that binds and motivates. Although from a much earlier age, the story of the person sweeping the floor at NASA is a good one.

When asked what their job was, the reply came “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

Whatever the nature of your organization’s corporate moonshot, identifying the leaders right throughout the organization who have that ‘enterprise mindset’ can be achieved by getting a clear picture of their potential early on.

Our LeaderFit profile model can help provide just such a picture of those who might have the potential to succeed. This unique leadership assessment methodology combines personality data, behavioural patterns and leadership experts’ judgement to predict individual performance in targeted senior roles.

"We create a total picture of an individual’s leadership performance and potential for growth", explains Ralph Göller, Partner at Odgers Berndtson Germany.

We have experience of assessing and developing leaders across publicly-traded companies, privately funded companies, and government/not-for-profit organizations.

If you want to discuss leadership issues like the enterprise mindset and how those issues might affect your talent and leadership planning, or perhaps want advice on your own career trajectory, please get in touch.