Aalto Leaders' Insight, Vol. 7: Fall 2018

Page 50

“The research indicated that instead of being charismatic power figures, the managing directors of the most successful companies were careful, meticulous, and even thought of as boring.” Stadler has examined European companies that have succeeded exceptionally for a hundred years. One of Stadler’s examples is British Glaxo, which started out as a general merchandising business in 1861. Patented milk powder steered the way towards a pharmaceutical company. Glaxo has been able to buy out its rivals along the way. Today, Glaxo SmithKline is a global pharmaceutical giant. According to the study, the success of German insurance company Allianz is based on making efficient use of its customer base, while French cement manufacturer Lafarge used the profits from building the Suez Canal to increase internationalization. Corporations with enduring success on Stadler’s list also include large European companies Shell, Siemens, and Nokia. The study indicated that instead of being charismatic power figures, the managing directors of the most successful companies were careful, meticulous, and even thought of as boring. The corporations were often very conservative when it came to change. Especially major strategic changes were prepared painstakingly over a long period of time. As opposed to typical intuitive hubris strategies, the companies focused on making use of the resources they already had instead of aiming to conquer new areas. They focused on their strengths. The companies were also eager to reflect on past mistakes – something that a hubris leader can hardly be pictured doing. Hubris is linked to a low toleration of criticism. Based on his research, Stadler advocates internal advancement and promotions instead of external recruitment. “A CEO who has started from the bottom knows plenty of people in the company. Seeking a rescuer from the outside can feed hubris”, says Stadler. With a functional network, the CEO

a alto leade r s’ i n si g h t

won’t become isolated and down to a single point of information. Stadler also feels that coming in from another sector can be an unnecessary risk. This goes against the current trend of thinking that professional executives get to shine no matter which industry they come from. “An insider is better aware of what’s possible.You can always use consultants to gain additional perspectives.” Also Stadler’s notion of tempo challenges current trends. ”I don’t believe in speed. Change takes time. Think of solar energy for instance, which has been tested since the 1970s, for nearly fifty years. It’s mainly communication that is now faster in business, not necessarily anything else.” He points out that each generation assumes it is going through the most crucial shift of all times. “The surveyed companies managed to successfully navigate the 1930s great depression, two world wars, two oil crises, the invention of the phone, television, and computer…” Stadler’s list sounds surprisingly untrendy. It’s hard to imagine fast-moving celebrity leaders, whether visionary business savvies or arrogant braggers, seeking employment in companies of intelligent conservatism. Not that the companies would like them on the payroll, either. Perhaps what makes an ideal leader is changing in other ways, too, as lately listening has been emphasized as an important leadership quality. Leaders are also advised to care and show empathy. Even servant leadership has gained favor, where the leader serves subordinates in order to improve their operating environment.The dawning change is at least partly due to hierarchy and authority dissipating from society, and the same applying to companies. You can’t make millennials bloom by telling them to.  ◆

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vol 7

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