Years ago, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman Jr co-authored In Search of Excellence, a bestseller and must-have for anyone who wanted to grow and run a successful business. It featured lessons from America’s best-run companies. Years later Bill Gates in the book Business at the Speed of Thought mentioned the fact that many of businesses profiled in Tom Peters’ masterpiece in fact did not remain at the top of their game. Many of them simply fizzled out.
Clayton Christensen in the book The Innovators Dilemma identified why many of such organisations do not do well. The result was startling so much so that the first time I saw it, I was convinced it was a typographical error.
His research submission was that the firms did not stay on top of their games because of their good management.
It sounded so paradoxical. However, on reading deeper into The Innovators Dilemma, it became clear. They had established such solid structures and processes that even when the need to change direction was glaring and staring them in the face, there was no way they could respond quickly. This inability to rapidly change direction cost them dearly.
Please note that these companies were led by some of the most brilliant people in America; alumni of the Ivy League colleges but their knowledge was not enough to stop their organisations from fizzling out.
We live in a world where we are drowning in information but starving for wisdom. Knowledge is not power. It is potential power when applied properly. A lot of people are wallowing in their knowledge but have been totally defeated by the Covid-19 pandemic. They were too rigid to change direction. It is not only organisations feeling the heat. Entire nations are too.
Leadership is revealed through crisis. It does not matter the resources an entity has or the potential it has, a crisis will always reveal the level of its leadership.
Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, wrote the book From Third World to First. He led Singapore from being a Third World nation to First World, thriving nation and major world player in just 25 years.
Happenings in the US in recent times are almost a reverse of what Lee Kuan Yew titled his book. Before our very eyes, a nation is disintegrating from First world to Fourth. We are seeing the same things past American regimes sanctioned African countries for openly play out. Nepotism at the highest levels, unrest and violence never before imagined in America and personnel movement to ensure that secrets of powerful people remain safe. These things were unimaginable only a few years ago. Again, knowledge is not enough.
Every entity will rise or fall according to the capacity of its leadership. Capacity is more than knowledge. Capacity is more than rhetoric. It is more than hype. Capacity is more than having the power to bully everyone else. Capacity is the ability to deliver and it cannot be faked.
The cure is humility. He who does not know and does not know that he doesn’t, will never know. Humility makes you see, accept and embrace the fact that you do not know. It makes you ready to learn from people and makes you open to divergent ideas to keep you relevant for some time to come.
Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks