Leadership, Innovation and Change.

Having just taken part in the EMC Leadership 2020 study it was been interesting to see that many of my concerns regarding business leadership were borne out by its findings.

Key findings were:

– Leaders agree market disruption is near universal
– Change is a constant, yet hard to manage
– Technology is the primary driver of change, closely followed by regulation.

However, the report revealed that leaders are not yet rising to deal with these challenges.

60 percent of all leaders said they were more conservative than they previously were, and nearly 50 percent expect to become even more conservative.

The key finding for me was the discovery that 88 percent of leaders reported that risk evaluation is limiting their businesses ability to recover and return to growth. The rise of big data, rather than being an enabler, is in fact paralysing leaders in their decision making process.


This is a key difference between leadership and management. When ‘managing’ it is the making of the day-to-day run more efficiently that is of critical importance, because generally things can and will go wrong.

When faced with challenges and change, organisations need their leadership to quickly analyze the problems, create a vision of a new outcome and lead the team to deliver this new outcome.

So leadership and management are clearly different yet complementary skills.

One item in the EMC study did surprise me. It seems that companies are relying on the Marketing department as the primary source of innovation. Innovation is critical for the ongoing success of any business, whether in product development as a market leader or fast-follower or for those seeking price leadership in supply chain or cost structure

This type of innovation needs top-down sponsorship from leadership and regular follow-up and motivation of teams to deliver results. If leadership is becoming more conservative, then innovation will surely be stifled.

Over 70 percent of the British businesses surveyed did not have a structured process to deliver innovation in the business and are relying on the Marketing function to ‘dress it up’.

 Given the turbulent times for business in recent years, it’s understandable that leaders become focused on not making mistakes rather than becoming a success. It is however, always the case that this approach fails in the mid to long term in a global business context.

A new generation of leaders are needed who are comfortable with increased complexity and speed; able to use big data in an effective analytical way; and yet still make timely decisions that will grow the business. This is true for CIOs but even more so for the overall leadership of the firm, the board in particular.

Download a copy of the EMC report to see the findings for yourself.
(Please be aware that you will be asked to register your details with EMC in order to access the document).