They are accepting of traditional methods, and the way things have always been done. They will not entertain change and are closed to new ideas and creative thinking. They often lack vision and foresight, existing in the present and remaining closed to the possibilities of what could be.
Consequently, they are unable to inspire others and find it difficult to work effectively within a team environment, particularly with those who are forward looking and curious about the possibilities of the future. Beige leaders sit comfortably in the squishy status quo sofa, often more concerned with survival than growth.
Further, beige leaders contribute to beige companies that:
- find it difficult to compete with new players entering the market who are challenging their products or services and delivering solutions that are better, quicker and sometimes cheaper.
- are secretive and insular; decisions are made behind closed doors. Mandates are shared in mass format. Meetings consist of ‘tells’ and the nodding of heads — and the real debate happens in hushed voices at the water filter or coffee machines.
- lose customers as, unsurprisingly, they move their allegiance to the new kid on the block who is offering a better product with improved functionality or service and a value add to them, the client.
- struggle to attract, recruit and retain talent. They fail to navigate the rapid changes that are happening in the marketplace and the leadership is unable to create a vision for the future. Staff become disengaged, products become stale, business slows down and profits decline.
- churn through the day making small adjustments and readjustments in the hope that these small actions will spark significant momentum in a rapidly changing world — but of course it is a mere blip.
The result is that beige companies fail to stop their own decline. The future needs leaders who are so comfortable in the space that they have the strength to lead and share, to learn and grow, who are actively curious and willing to give.
These leaders are capable of amplifying others; they build a culture that encourages and enables sharing, and a culture of commercial collaboration that drives change and innovation.
These leaders create the space and freedom to think, debate and ideate. This is a culture in which people from diverse skill bases, demographics, genders and industries have the opportunity to speak and be heard.
They are agile, action-driven and results-oriented. They are focused and directional — strong in commitment and decisive in vision.
We live in a fast-paced world. The people and businesses that will ultimately succeed will be the ones that are capable of evolution and innovation. They will keep their eye on the ultimate goal and be willing to change their dance as required to get there.
The leader of the future has to:
Janine Garner is the CEO of LBDGroup and author of From Me To We – Why commercial collaboration will future-proof business, leaders and personal success (Wiley).
Three things leaders should seek to avoid
- be restless, curious and open to opportunity; evolve and try new things; be looking out for ‘what’s next’ at all times
- combine emotional intelligence with economic intelligence
- balance care for human capital as much as financial capital
- balance quick thinking and decision-making and yet be flexible and open to change
- be agile and keep up with the speed of change
- understand almost perfect is perfect, since the speed of change will make it impossible to get everything right the first time
- have a willingness to not get perfection immediately but to allow perfection to evolve
- collaborate more and be less mindful of hierarchy and position
- be willing to share, mentor others, guide and take a step back
- take an honest and open approach
- create leaders in others and leadership around them
- have a self-belief and inner confidence, an ability to trust themselves and the value they bring to the table.
Beige leaders are those who are complacent in their role of ‘superiority’.