Many new executives come out of business school still unprepared with desired competencies when entering into potential leadership positions. I asked Naina Desai, Head of Revenue Growth Management and Bottler Strategy at Coca-Cola what her thoughts were on competencies that leaders should focus on to face the volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business environment we find ourselves facing every day. 

Interview Summary

ND: We must first understand that we do live in a disruptive business environment. Whether it is technology, geopolitical influence, or even the face of the competition, the dynamics exist, and therefore as a leader, you should be prepared to handle the various scenarios. 

JH: If the business environment is as non-standard as your imply, what would be some soft skills that new executives should begin to think about in terms of competencies?

ND: In business, it will be essential to spot and connect seemingly unconnected/unrelated trends. This business intellect is critical to leadership awareness. One of the simplest ways to do this is to remain intellectually curious but also expand your network. With social media playing a significant role in not only your personal life but now, as a part of your profession, you should be able to grow your network. Connect with others you may not have in other situations, and you will benefit from the growth of knowledge almost immediately. As an example, having a skill set to understand that oil prices in the middle east can affect supply chain issues in Africa or customer spending habits in North America. Awareness of connectivity will help a leader see that connection to other nonrelated markets impacts business in many ways.

JH: Besides expanding your network within social media, how else can a new leader begin to cultivate this critical attribute for the 21st century?

ND: Besides social media, there are traditional methods that still hold value. Attending venues such as conferences, professional development opportunities, and social gatherings are just a few to mention. You can expand outside of your comfort zones and begin to sense how things are connected and that the world is genuinely becoming smaller and more interdependent with each other. 

Key Leadership Takeaways:

  1. Are you developing the next generation of leaders with the foresight to look beyond typical business competencies and prepare them for NEXT practices, not best practices? 
  2. Nothing happens in a silo anymore. Have the mindset that spheres of influence are more expansive than you imagine. 

Leader Action Plan:

  1. Engage your team in discussion about the importance of expanding their professional networks and even step out of comfort zones in what they read for professional development, business journals, or news. 
  2. This is a classic leadership discussion about growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset. Those leaders who think times will not change will quickly be overrun by those who embrace this dynamic, fast-paced environment that has almost everything connected somehow. Encourage discussion about a growth mindset. Have a junior member of your organization create a 5 to 10-minute professional development discussion for your team and watch the energy expand ten-fold! 

What are your thoughts on a leader’s awareness of connection? Please post your comments below and let us begin building a tribe of people who have a passion for followership, mentorship, and leading!