Leadership and Business Complexity: A Love/Hate Relationship?

June 21, 2018

In the Headlines

I love my job but I hate the never-ending roller coaster.

This quote pretty much sums up what I heard from the small survey I have done with 44 members of my senior exec network. Thank you for your participation if you are reading this.

Even if you have not taken part in my survey, I am sure you can relate and possibly share the same feelings as my survey participants. One day you get great news at work -- your project/idea/growth target is tracking along nicely and all is good in the world. The next day something comes up that you had not expected and that derails your work, forcing you sometimes to reconsider the path you have taken.

Survey participants told me that we all know what this roller coaster is and we call it in a variety of ways: business turbulence, VUCA, market turmoil, etc. Some of what I also got from the survey is that some leaders are trying to tame turbulence and that a few are going a step further embracing the true phenomenon behind the wild ride -- COMPLEXITY.

Complexity is sometimes our best friend when, for example, our competitors cannot copy the success of our business model, or when our unique network makes us more agile in pursuing an opportunity. Complexity though can make our lives more difficult when a client unexpectedly leaves us, or when a group of talented employees decides to launch their own start-up.

Either way, every one of us should come to terms with our LOVE/HATE relationship with complexity and learn that loving it makes our lives a little bit, well, less complicated.

How are we supposed to do that? In my survey, I asked you to share things that you LOVE about complexity and things that you HATE. I am listing them below; see if they are helpful to you in finding ways to cope with complexity.

LOVE insight HATE simple data - We are awash with data, trouble is that more data does not mean better results. Strive to get actionable insight from the data. I like this piece by Sudha Ram as it gives an idea of how to get good insight from data.



LOVE collaboration HATE connections - We are so hyperconnected today, yet we struggle to create long-term relationships that foster collaboration and new ideas. It is only when we stop to have meaningful conversations that the best of us truly comes out.

LOVE agility HATE frenziness - We are frantically trying to keep up with the quantity and scale of problems thrown at us. Many of us address this by compressing the time we spend on each problem and try to cram in more. That's frenzy not agile. Embracing complexity here means spending more time on developing an agile mindset. I especially like this article in HBR that offers some ideas on how to improve our learning agility.

LOVE purpose HATE endless planning - Having a purpose helps to make your personal and organizational direction clear to everyone you work with. Turbulent times do not allow for endless revisions of plans that inevitably have to change. Transparency instead is becoming an expectation, your openness around your purpose will be appreciated and rewarded with the same. That way your environment will start to appear less complicated.

I am hoping that these LOVE/HATE principles prompted you to think of other things you LOVE or HATE about this new world we live in and I would love it if you reached out to help me build an even better picture of how we can all best embrace complexity and lead less complicated lives.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay