Most leaders feel they are defined by the structure and boundaries of their own organization. Even in complex, global, matrixed organizations leaders see themselves as part of the inner structure constantly looking for new ways to make old perspectives and situations work. During the past six months, I have been on the road literally every week delivering leadership development programs for leaders who are thirsting for new skills and new perspectives on how to be more effective in their leadership roles. During this time, it has become increasingly clear that too many leaders have a dangerous internal view and either have lost the ability (or never had the ability) to see and have an outward perspective. An “Inward-Out” leadership point of view requires leaders to see and understand the big picture of their industry and the economic and strategic drivers of their business that help achieve success. It requires understanding the trends that are shaping markets and customer demand, and seeing things that customers, competitors, and others haven’t seen yet instead of just reacting to everything which is usually too late.
Another dimension of having an outward perspective is an awareness and recognition that we now live and work in a seamless, global economy where different customer segments have different cultures, tastes, and ways of doing things.
Based upon academic research and our own experience and insights in this area, I present five tips that you can do from a leadership perspective to break away from the inward mindset and start the process of developing the outward leadership perspective. If you do this well, you can actually become a change agent for the process.
Develop a global mindset for business
Even if the business you are in focuses on local markets/regions, you have an important responsibility to yourself and to your business of traveling, exploring, and seeking out new experiences so you can develop a global business mindset. Whether that is taking on a short-term assignment, or moving to a different part of the word, the first step in developing the global mindset is exposure to new cultures, new demand drivers, and new creativity when it comes to delivering your value proposition to new customer segments.
Enhanced Strategic thinking
Every strategy and every tactic to execute the strategy must be done with caring, precision and a focus of the right value proposition to the right customer segments. Developing an inward-out culture requires leaders to have a strong sense of strategic frameworks and tools to be able to choose the right value proposition and then the levers of the business across the enterprise to deliver the value.
Deep knowledge of how customers make money
In a business-to-business environment, most leaders barely understand how their own business makes money let alone how their customers make money. The inward-out leader is focused on how their customers make money and even more focused on how to deliver a value proposition to help their customers make even more money.
Understanding key competitors and their differentiators
Too many inwardly focused leaders don’t pay enough attention to their competitors. The inward-out leader knows their key competitors, the competitor’s value proposition, and how the competitor’s differentiation is positioned in the market.
Being able to see disruptors before they disrupt
The final element related to being an inward-out leader is having the ability to listen to the weak signals and see disruptors before they disrupt. For example, the leaders at Blockbuster video were so focused on internal operations and the storefronts, they were unable to see the oncoming disruption of streaming media.
In summary, developing an inward-out mindset is not easy. It takes a lot of work and perseverance. And new skills and tools. The recommendation here is if you believe in just one thing contained in this blog, go find yourself some training to get better at it.