A Moment for Leadership

24 May 2022

A Moment for Leadership

Accelerated Disruption

There has been more big change in the past decade than in the previous 50+ years. We have seen rapid and significant disruption across all sectors—from how we shop and pay for consumer products and how we access healthcare, to what we understand about each other’s lived experiences and what we expect from brands and employers.

"We see a trend of a shift in individuals' general mindset regarding work, from ‘living for work’ towards ‘work for living and purpose’," explained Mats-Ola Bydell, Partner, Head of the Industrial Practice at Odgers Berndtson U.S. “A company’s ability to recruit and retain great talent depends almost entirely on an organization’s ability to demonstrate authentic purpose and lead in alignment with core values.” 

Leadership Archetypes

At Odgers Berndtson U.S., we define leadership as making sense of all that’s going on, aligning it to core values and purpose, seeing through it all to the future, and motivating people to find a way there together. We need leaders who can do this in many ways:

Industry Veterans are knowledgeable and reliable. With deep expertise and strong networks, they help us preserve what’s good and remind us about our WHY.

Athletes are versatile and adaptable team players, which makes them great at pivoting to new roles or new industries. They leverage their cross-industry experience to direct HOW companies realize a vision.

Trailblazers are visionary, adventurous, and goal-oriented. They focus on WHERE a company is going and often take us to new places - think crypto or the metaverse.

Continuum of Change

Before Odgers Berndtson U.S. partners seek out the right leader for a client, we spend a good amount of time determining what that organization really needs. Identifying where they are on the continuum of change is an important step:

Emerging – These organizations are either startups or they represent a new industry, such as crypto or metaverse. They are in high-growth mode, typically charting new territory. These companies often thrive with leaders who are Trailblazers.

Transforming – Mature organizations in industries that are being disrupted - think oil and gas - need to be considering reinvention if they want to remain relevant. These organizations need adaptable leaders, or Athletes, to help them pivot.

Experimenting – Mature organizations in stable industries still need to think about innovation. But, unlike transforming organizations, the purpose of innovation in these companies is to bolster their business, not to fundamentally change it. Whether they invest in new technologies, processes, or lines of business, experimenting organizations can’t lose sight of their core. That’s why they need leaders who are Industry Veterans.

Introducing the Series

In this series, our contributors will talk about how they’re partnering with their clients to identify where they are in the continuum of change and which leadership archetype they’re looking for.

  • Blazing the Right Trail in Blockchain
    Jake Langenkamp, Managing Director, Idenx
    As distributed ledger-enabled technologies continue to disrupt the way companies do business, Jake Langenkamp partners with clients to bring clarity to this rapidly evolving landscape. He helps companies find Trailblazers to educate about blockchain and Athletes to help them figure out what it means for their business.

  • “Put Me in, Coach:” A Gameplan for Leadership in Cleantech
    Jim Thompson, Partner, Head of Power, Renewables, Cleantech, and Sustainable Technologies Practice
    Joyce Guo, Partner, Shanghai
    Trevor Smith, Partner, Toronto
    With 40+ years of executive and search experience in the energy sector, Jim Thompson knows how to find leaders who can be successful in the space. As the industry has transitioned toward clean energy alternatives, Jim has shifted his approach to search. These days, Jim and the cleantech team are looking for athletes: proven leaders whose basic skills and broad experience are strong enough to translate successfully to renewables and cleantech. In this article, Jim, Joyce and Trevor talk about why the cleantech industry needs athletes (urgently), how to find one, and how to be one yourself.

  • Leading Ourselves First
    Derek Wilkinson, Partner, Head of the US Public, Not-for-Profit, and Education Practices and Global Co-Head of the International Development Practice
    As disruption becomes the norm, how can leaders mitigate risks in the external environment? By being willing to take a good look in the mirror. In this article Derek Wilkinson explores the importance of self-awareness, continuing education, and taking the right risks for today’s leaders.

Conclusion: The Long View

The world is changing faster than ever. Companies that want to create the future need great leaders. We also understand that while the pace of change feels urgent, we are building business longevity.

And there is reason for optimism. Our Leadership Confidence Index 2022, an extensive global survey of executives and board members conducted in partnership with Forrester, shows confidence in leadership is up almost 20 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels.

As we work with clients across a range of industries and stages of development, we are encouraging them to recruit not only for superstar CEOs and executives to help tackle the next challenge, but also for a deep bench of talent to take us into the future.