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Design, Build, and Run

Architects don't manage utilities. Construction workers only make the designer's vision a reality. Service companies are at their best when managing the day-to-day tasks of making the building systems function.

You need different talents at different times.

Skills for times of crises and times of calm are distinct. In a crisis, most effective talents are comfortable with ambiguity. They make good decisions with imperfect information. They align distraught colleagues by giving sense and communicating purpose. When the job is to make trains run on time, you will value those who find efficiencies, who plan and manage, who cherish the process.

COVID-19 has unveiled many talents that previously were overlooked. Similarly, many used-to-be stars could not cope with the new abnormal.

One lesson from this is that performance is highly contextual. We knew this already. Different horses for different courses.

There is another - perhaps a bigger - learning. Some of us, a much smaller group, were equally effective both during the harshest of the crisis and in the times of return to work.

This quality goes by various names: leadership versatility, managerial flexibility, learning agility... What all of those have in common is this idea of being able to stretch your natural style and preferences towards the opposite. If you are naturally action oriented, you stretch to being reflective and taking a pause. If your default is giving orders and guiding others, you stretch to listen and let someone else take a lead. If you are a known nitpicking rule-follower, you stretch to managing the bigger picture and letting go.

When we have the luxury, we will have different people to play to their strengths to design, build, and run ... [processes, brands, organizations, teams, projects, etc.] What if we don't have this luxury? Or what if the straddle between crises and business-as-usual becomes shorter and shorter? Flexibility and agility will rise in demand.

Premium goods warrant higher prices.

To sharpen your leadership edge, focus on developing skills that will be in higher demand but shorter supply.

Do you know how you need to stretch your agility? Flex more? Do you have a plan?

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