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BOOK: Great Leaders Realize They Don’t Even Know What They Don’t Know

Updated: Jan 5


source: getty
source: forbes.com

Before Covid-19 forced employers to padlock their doors while employees sheltered at home, business leaders didn’t have to look far for their next worry.


Prior to the pandemic, customers and employees had been becoming more dissatisfied amid increasing social tensions—trade barriers that undermine globalization, political cooperation, and economic liberalization. Technology was changing the way people work, play, shop, design, manufacture, socialize, and communicate. Well-known marquee brands were threatened by digital upstarts. Many longstanding business practices no longer seemed to click.


Great companies were finding that what they’d been doing to achieve success was no longer good enough. Executives were fully aware of this new reality and transformation programs were already underway. Then the coronavirus arrived.


In their new book, “Beyond Great: Nine Strategies for Thriving in an Era of Social Tension, Economic Nationalism, and Technological Revolution”, authors Arindam Bhattacharaya, Nikolaus Lang, and Jim Hemerling tap into the wisdom of some of the most accomplished men and women in business. These people have been extraordinarily adept at keeping their businesses successfully moving forward while juggling the myriad challenges described above.


Top leaders today, the authors stress, need to be team players and collaborate with others, including competitors at times. They can only base their decisions on what they know at a given time, even with the help of supercomputers, AI, advanced modeling, and other technologies. There’s always the possibility in this constantly changing world that the information they have may be incomplete, biased, or based on asking the wrong questions. In other words, they may not know what they don’t know. To leaders who embrace that reality, the humility to listen to others is their leg up.


Other leadership characteristics explored in the book include the willingness to pivot from narrowly focused shareholder capitalism to more broadly-focused stakeholder capitalism, as well as recognizing that they must deal with three disruptive forces: ambiguity, tension, and paradox. They must steer their organizations to learn, rethink, and experiment—with agility and speed—while remaining firmly grounded in the products, policies, processes, and other stable and unchanging elements of the business that have enabled the company to excel.


The great strength of the book in addition to wisdom on continuous transformation, what it takes to be both local and global, attending to the wants and needs of this new generation of employees, and collaborating with competitors, is the insights from leaders of a slew of top-performing companies. And you’ll probably realize that there’s a lot that you didn’t know you didn’t know.


Read the full forbes.com article reviewing the book here.