“Most CEOs know they have to divide their attention among short-, medium-, and long-term perspectives, but the adaptable CEOs spent significantly more of their time—as much as 50%—thinking about the long term.”[i]
~ Botelho, Rosenkoetter Powell, Kincaid, and Wang (2017)
One of the major challenges of business leadership is adapting to new internal and external conditions. Business leaders know that change is essential and firms that cease innovating will decline. The key question is: What should change, and what should not?
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Botelho, Rosenkoetter Powell, Kincaid, and Wang (2017) stated, “….CEOs who excel at adapting are 6.7 times more likely to succeed” (p. 76).[ii] One can easily question the analytical methods and estimates of the probability of success in this study but, clearly, business leadership must constantly adapt their business model to changes in consumer tastes and preferences, competition, regulation, and input costs. Products and business processes inevitably must change, but this may be a particularly difficult challenge since, often, the current leaders of the business have been the ones who have been instrumental in implementing the current products and business practices. Leadership must establish a culture where everyone is expected to generate ideas, and an incentive system to reward them.
Perhaps a more important challenge is to understand and maintain principles that must not change. A virtuous business needs to steadfastly maintain their commitment to valuing the individual, integrity in decision making, and doing the right thing—despite possible short-run adverse consequences. It is the virtuous principles that guide the business, serving as its unchanging foundation as the business adapts to new conditions. One of the ideal examples of this was Paul, as evidenced by his work and letters in the New Testament. He adapted to the conditions and people he worked with when establishing Christian communities around the Mediterranean, while always maintaining the principles of Christ’s teaching.
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
1 Cor. 9:22 New International Version
[i] Botelho, E. L., Rosenkoetter Powell, K., Kincaid, S., &Wang, D. (2017, May-June). What sets successful CEOs apart? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/05/what-sets-successful-ceos-apart (para. 23)
[ii] Ibid, para. 22.