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Survival of the Fittest: Your 7-Step Guide

It's a jungle out there. The good news is that you can not only survive in it but thrive in it, if you follow a few basic leadership rules.
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Survey after survey identifies "uncertainty" as one of the biggest challenges facing business owners today. In the business world change is not only constant but massive and completely unpredictable. Labeling it the "new normal" doesn’t make it any easier to live with. However, you can keep up with and maybe even get ahead of continuous upheaval--and help your people do the same--by mastering these seven essential skills.

1. Be alert, to everything

Any business, no matter how successful, can become extinct (or at least weakened) very quickly by a rapid shift in customer preferences, the competitive landscape, or myriad other factors. Everyone from leaders to front-line employees must become highly attuned to the threats and opportunities your company encounters. Don't tolerate (let alone foster) a corporate culture that accepts complacency, hubris, or an internally focused, politically charged atmosphere.

2. Understand what strong leadership really is

The same characteristics that make people powerful leaders often pull them too far from the best long-term interests of their enterprise. Regardless, we do need strong leaders to get the best out of organizations and the people who work for them. This feature of human nature is not one that should be judged. Rather, it should be accepted, talked about openly, and managed. Be strong, in the right way, and demand the same of your top executives.

3. Get everyone to lean in

According to The Gallup Organization, about 70 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged or inspired at work. They ask a question in the form of an attitude: WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?” That is a very important question for each stakeholder in your enterprise. To invest anything-;capital, effort, time-;we must feel that there ultimately will be some benefit to us. Research confirms that obtaining the extra incremental effort from each individual can make the difference between marginal performance and extraordinary effort.

4. Learn to balance the disparate needs of many players

Today's competitive and ever-changing business environment requires complex interrelationships across businesses, as well as a keen focus on customer preferences. Leaders with a long-term view must adroitly balance the wants and needs of many external parties in ways that are mutually beneficial to all.

5. Build the brand--from within

A brand can bring people together internally and represent an enterprise to the world quickly and viscerally, contributing to the success of the enterprise. But to do that, employees, customers, and partners must consistently experience organizational behavior that complements the brand image and reinforces its authenticity.

6. Be forever flexible

Decision-making structures have changed over time, and then changed again. We centralize for a while and then realize that decision-making is too removed from the front lines. So we decentralize and then realize that we've lost efficiencies and focus. The best leaders recognize that their organizations cannot centralize or decentralize. Instead, they need to be flexible and adjust the balance over time.

7. Embrace the power of evolution

Today's most successful companies remain true to their core competencies while evolving their capabilities in response to their environment. Done right, these always-emerging capabilities will make a business more interesting, more profitable, and more continually relevant. By constantly evolving and innovating you won't merely survive, you'll thrive.

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Last updated: Apr 23, 2014

PETER ECONOMY

While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the bestselling author of Managing For Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 65 other books with total sales in excess of 2 million copies. He has also served as Associate Editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Visit him at petereconomy.com and follow him on Twitter: @bizzwriter




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