Managing change: New managers for new times

Every New Year's Eve it is customary to make resolutions of a personal and professional nature for the coming year; and, for managers it's no different. It's a good time for all managers to take a good hard look at their role in, and commitment to, the process of improving the competitiveness of the organisations which they lead.

We are currently witnessing a profound and far-reaching transformation of industries, a growing need for both innovation and ongoing adaptation, and an urgent need to develop new solutions and concepts never before seen. In response we need to develop an unshakeable capacity to come up with radically new business concepts and to creatively reinterpret existing concepts. Gary Hamel puts it best: "The gap between what can be imagined and what can be accomplished has never been smaller."

In their endeavour for success, organisations today face serious challenges: they must factor in the growing importance of knowledge and talent, whilst they equip themselves to deal with the fast pace of change and with ongoing innovation, not to mention more personalised client segmentation. Additionally, they must likewise be sensitive to the need for connectivity; to the need for developing a culture of entrepreneurship; the democratisation of organisations in general; and to the glokal presence of companies in the world. Finally, managers must be willing, able and flexible enough to develop the employability of people in the organisation. In short, the challenges are vast.

We're living at a time where ongoing change within our organisations must be a constant, transforming them into creative players who, deriving strength from the capacity and will of its members, promote that very change. Managers at all levels must support strategic dialogue within the organisation, co-operating with all the players with whom it has dealings, ensuring engagement with greater society, whilst creating value-added around the intangible assets of the organisation. Not only should they be favourable to genetic diversity and progressive democratisation of their companies, but they should also come up with dual-approach strategies which prepare for the future while managing the present, with revolutionary leaders throughout the organisation.

Given this competitive dynamic in organisations, a number of questions are raised regarding the difficulties of leading and managing such business projects: Are our professionals and leaders able to manage this transformation? What role does the manager play in this context? Without attempting to really answer these questions, I would, however, like to offer my own personal view of the traits 21st Century managers ought to have.

In my opinion, it is crucial in this new era to maintain the right balance of managerial skills in order to lead profound change and to generate a sense of transcendence in our organisations, which includes setting the example in both ethics and commitment. Furthermore, that balance includes the ability to promote democratisation within the organisation and to foster an organisational environment aimed at developing people and equipment, while actively participating in the processes of innovation and ongoing improvement. For managers to ultimately be able to steer our organisations to success and prosperity, they must add the critical elements of attracting, promoting and developing talent, and even creating leaders at all levels.

Martin Luther King Jr. used to speak often about the paramount responsibility of leaders to educate and educate. For us, this translates into actively fostering experimentation, stressing the pre-eminence of 'being' over 'having'; intellectual curiosity; the ability to interact socially; as well as maintaining an unwavering commitment to society. We need new professionals with the right knowledge, attitude, ethics and commitment to both the project and society.

New managers for new times: I invite managers at all levels to include in their resolutions for 2014, to promote learning amongst all members of their organisation.

*Published in El Economista. 20/01/2014

Sabin Azua

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