Investors, whether in start-ups or further through the alphabet, are in the business of backing winning horses for a return. That’s the point. However, many are increasingly interested in HOW that return is achieved. Not just WHEN.
That means that, in these post-COVID times where brands are catering to a younger purpose-driven consumer (with expectations of a broader representation), brand leaders and C-suites are expected to operate well beyond being guardians of the bottom line.
This rapidly changing business environment requires a set of evolving skills that are needed to become a successful and sustainable leader. Those slow to adapt may find themselves without a team to lead.
If leaders aren’t born but made, what exactly do they need to be made of to flourish? And how do you hone that goodness?
Here is the Good Soul formula on what investors and boards look for in leadership:
1. Lead > Follow
The pandemic put many leaders in the passenger’s seat as disruption and uncertainty reigned. Much of the response during that time was retrospective and reactionary course-correction. Now, with continued economic pressures and a newly delivered world of work, it’s time to move into the driver’s seat, re-tool the gearbox and shove it into overdrive. It’s time to drive the change.
The approach to leadership today needs to be an environment of ongoing transformation. Historically, transformation was a project led by external consultants, but now, like all deep change - personal or business - it must come from within. Technology is enabling faster processing and win-win partnerships are delivering more comprehensive and seamless solutions. As fast as things seem now they will never be this slow again. And it’s an inside job.
Whether it's obtaining and implementing new technologies and capabilities, or causing disruption in the industry, brands doing things first are paving the new frontier of business and making the rules for those who follow.
2. Mean it > Say it
Transparency, sustainability and inclusivity within business has shifted from “nice to have” to “must have.” Being kind, caring and environmentally aware has insulated some industries from near collapse. Take outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, which has spent the past 47 years – eved since it launched – leading the way with environmentally firendly business practices. For example, it has pledged 1% of sales to the conservation of the natural environment, leading to Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, co-founding 1% for the Planet so other companies could do the same.
The domineering might of the “Alpha” might have worked during the Gordon Gekko-idolizing, champagne and quaaludes-fuelled 1980s. But as we’ve seen with the likes of Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival and “King of Crypto”, Sam Bankman-Fried, modern leaders need far more self-awareness.
In the post #MeToo world, where #BLM and 2SLGBTQIA+ are more than faddish slogans and global warming bubbles away under every decision, a CEO who only pretends to care will be revealed quickly and earn a one-way ticket to ‘cancel culture’.
Being tone-deaf – whether it’s your own persona, social or staffing issues – may put you on the sidelines.
3. Empower > Overpower
Leadership teams are at the pointy end of curating culture and processes to drive the business sustainably and the spirit of business. But what’s the best way of getting everyone on board? Top-down, military-style operations dishing out the orders are pas se. In the newly reclaimed power-to-the-people spirit the impetus must be more osmotic.
But what investors are now looking for are leaders who clearly define the direction and then lock arms with everyone to take them on the journey. Leaders who delegate and empower those around them create teams which are accountable. With shared power, great leadership teams also shoulder the responsibility together – which nearly always results in galvanizing the team, improving performance and increasing engagement. Caring should never be underestimated.
4. EQ > IQ
Being smart is one thing. Being aware is another, entirely.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, almost 75 percent of hiring managers value an employee's EQ more than their IQ.
EQ (emotional intelligence) refers to the ability to perceive, control, reason and evaluate emotions. It requires self-knowledge and empathy and is a critical ability when it comes to interpersonal communication – and is more important than ever.
Having a high EQ is critical to your success as a leader – and it’s something that investors will look for. Not only does it help you be a better C-suite once you reach those heights, but it helps you get there in the first place.
In the end, business is a team effort, internally and externally. Having great EQ helps forge stronger relationships that in turn aligns agendas and ultimately streamlines operations. It also enhances other necessary skills, such as teamwork, influencing skills and client management.
And most importantly, given we devote most of our working hours to work, it pays to have fun and be happy. So build a business of Good Souls.