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Leading Through Innovative Disruption

Published on 10/9/17Bookmark and Share

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Imagine the life of a legacy grocery retailer. In recent years, many believed technology would present among the greatest challenges to their industry. The September close of online retailer Amazon’s acquisition of specialty brick-and-mortar grocer Whole Foods, however, brought the combination of immediate disruptive innovation and deep discounting from a mega organization with a national footprint.

It likely left leaders of retailers like Publix, Albertson’s or even Walmart with a new definition of “disruption.”

In the emerging economy, massive and rapid shifts and a “winner take most” model of success promise to establish market dominance, wreak havoc on legacy brands, and change the competitive landscape. Add retail, travel, and almost any other sector to the list, and organizations and executives must stay nimble and prepared for the challenges of the modern economy.

For more than a decade, the executive leadership programs from the Center for Leadership (CFL) at Florida International University have prepared leaders to guide teams in a fast-changing marketplace – one whose pace of sometimes massive change is only accelerating, says Dr. Nathan Hiller, CFL’s founding academic director.

Dr. Hiller predicts great changes and challenges for leadership education for corporate, not-for-profit, government, and even educational sectors…

  1. Research will continue to drive relevance and innovation in executive education. It’s enticing to follow the latest trends or catchy business buzzwords in leadership modeling. Yet, as Hiller and his team have proven over the past decade, a reliance on empirical research, a fresh approach to customized leadership training and development programs for corporate partners, and the infusion real-world application, reflection, peer-to-peer learning, and critical feedback help meet specific organizational and executive needs. “It’s important not to shift with fleeting trends or the latest business-speak,” he says. “Adaptive leaders and the training they rely on are complex and dynamic, and no one single approach will get you or an organization where it needs to be. The best leaders have a repertoire of approaches, skills and abilities they hone over time.”
  2. The face and goals of participants will change. Decision makers from Fortune 500s once comprised the bulk of executive leadership participants. Today and going forward, smaller organizations, not-for-profits, and municipal and educational leaders will join them. Moreover, they’ll seek programs that encourage self-reflection and a focus fostering esprit de corps among teams – and luring the best talent. “They will be looking for development of leaders and systems that translate into more than individual improvement, but ways to nurture people across their organizations.”
  3. Niche programs will grow in prominence. Ivy League programs may have panache, but smaller niche programs are earning recognition. When a large healthcare provider recently contacted the CFL about creating a customized, long-term leadership development program for its executives, that validated the program’s course. So, too, do Center program evaluations that consistently score 4.8 out of 5 for rigor, operations, trainers, and integrity. “Eighty percent of our participants become huge fans,” Hiller says.

“Disruption” isn’t reserved for the Amazons, Googles, or even Airbnbs or Ubers of the world. Any organization has the ability to be disruptive in its industry. Six months ago, Amazon likely wasn’t front of mind with most grocery executives. Today, they’re all rethinking their models – and the executive-level skillsets needed – not only to survive, but more importantly to thrive in the modern marketplace.

“What we’ve learned about leadership in the last 10 years will be extraordinarily impactful for the next decade – and beyond,” Hiller says.

“How leaders, and the educators who train them, respond will help them better understand a changing landscape and better define and determine their paths to success.”