June 19, 2024

Enterprise Leaders

Enterprise leadership















Today’s Enterprise leaders, those at the top of the organisation, are tasked with balancing the delivery of near-term results while also ensuring future success — often transforming the organisation in the process.  They do this by demonstrating strong current performance, often driven by shareholder expectations, and also having a robust future plan. 

Enterprise leaders think ahead, shaping the organisation with a long-term perspective while building flexibility and agility to respond to planned and unexpected events, defining their crucial role in the leadership ecosystem.

It’s no mean feat.

In fact, Korn Ferry research shows that only 14% of leaders excel in this demanding role, as these challenges often lack straightforward solutions or present many options. However, embracing these evolving challenges provides opportunities to shape the organisation by setting a strategic vision and plan.

In this blog discover four critical functions to successfully navigate and balance these demands, developing and empowering teams across and through your organisation. 

Enterprise leadership: A constant cycle that never turns off 

Enterprise leaders need a broad range of often conflicting perspectives: an external view, an internal focus, a big-picture mindset, and attention to detail. They must also support other leaders, promote collaboration, and ensure that all levels of leadership work together effectively. 

By supporting and empowering other leaders, they build a strong and aligned leadership pipeline to drive the organisation forward, grasping current opportunities and challenges quickly, while anticipating future developments. This perpetual cycle never ends.

When it comes to driving enterprise impact, it boils down to two main things: performing and transforming

Organisations need to make their current business model as efficient and effective as possible to deliver in the short term, while adapting for the future, transforming to ensure the organisation keeps up with changes and disruptions in the market. However, there are risks with both approaches. It is a delicate balance, if they don’t set others up to be innovative, they might fall behind, lose customer loyalty, and top talent to competitors. On the other hand, if they make big changes too quickly without enough evidence, they risk alienating customers and stakeholders, damaging their reputation, and facing financial losses. 

By developing the ability to effectively balance, Enterprise Leaders can not only navigate this perpetual cycle well but also drive innovation and growth. To master this, the Enterprise Leader needs to focus on the following four key areas to facilitate more meaningful engagement, collaboration and accountability.

1. Establish direction

For Enterprise Leaders a forward-looking vision is essential, anticipating future challenges and opportunities by scanning the horizon. They must prepare the organisation to navigate uncertainties and rapid changes, ensuring it is agile and dynamic. Using this foresight, leaders set the course for the organisation of the future, aligned with its purpose. By visualising, Enterprise Leaders can predict and communicate the organisation’s direction clearly, ensuring everyone is engaged, understands and takes the right actions. 

Why does it matter?

Because without clear direction and unified efforts within your organisation, people will waste time and effort, experience frustration, and lose engagement. This can lead to a lag in bringing new products and services to the market, effectively controlling long term costs and creating significant retention issues, putting you at a disadvantage compared to competitors.

Two-thirds of well-formulated strategies fail because of the inability to define and maintain direction, and too much focus on internal issues.–Let’s put that into perspective and look at Walmart, the global retail chain. Enterprise Leaders constantly monitor changes in consumer behaviour, economic trends, and competitors to anticipate future challenges and opportunities. 

So, when it came to leveraging an opportunity and changing direction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail giant saw a huge shift in consumer behaviour towards online shopping and contactless delivery. This accelerated its digital transformation efforts and led to the launch of Walmart+, a subscription service that offers perks such as unlimited free delivery on groceries and fuel discounts, as well as access to a scan-and-go feature for in-store shopping. This move was a strategic response to the increased demand for online grocery delivery and contactless shopping options during the pandemic and would not have been possible if the organisation was not already primed to take advantage of the shift.

They also expanded their partnerships with third-party delivery services to enhance options and reach more customers.

By leveraging the opportunity presented by the shift towards online shopping accelerated by the pandemic, Walmart changed direction to strengthen its position in the digital retail space and better serve evolving customer needs.

With clear direction, Walmart’s Enterprise Leaders empowered functional leaders to work more efficiently, cutting unnecessary steps and leading their teams to achieve future goals. They had to communicate openly and genuinely, inspiring everyone to embrace changes in their work, painting a clear, compelling future vision that everyone could engage with. This ensured Walmart stayed focused on adapting and improving operations to stay competitive.  

Walmat’s approach was effective, and a great example of Enterprise Leadership, reacting to conditions. Enterprise Leaders can be the difference between industry leaders and slow followers, if the organisation was headed this way already then the transition would have been business as usual. The market data was already highlighting trends in this direction, COVID just accelerated the process. This re-enforces the need for Enterprise Leaders to think ahead, be proactive in anticipating future shifts, and transform the organisation to seize the opportunities and mitigate risks that may exist.

While Enterprise leaders may not have control over every event, they do have control over their responses to these situations. As the saying goes, “We can’t control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” 

Leverage this mindset by embracing change, fostering innovation, and empowering your workforce to overcome obstacles. Focusing on what you can control can steer your organisation through turbulent times towards future success and creating a compelling vision will encourage everyone else to come with you on the journey.

2. Set the tone

Enterprise Leaders define and share values and behaviours, evolving them over time, by working closely with their Leaders of Leaders to ensure alignment and effective teamwork. 

By role-modeling these values and being ready to be held accountable for demonstrating them daily, as well as holding others accountable, Enterprise Leaders can help other leaders break down silos that don’t align with the vision, enabling everyone to thrive and achieve remarkable results.

Enterprise Leaders set the tone for culture and business transformation through their actions, demonstrating humility and maintaining trust. In fact, humanising leadership is one of the key challenges businesses face today, so applying a top-down led, bottom-up approach can influence workplace culture (more on this next blog!). This means setting a clear vision and values and then creating space, empowering employees at all levels to contribute ideas and drive change.

With only 32% of managers trusting senior leaders, those who demonstrate humility by sharing mistakes and acknowledging their imperfections gain the trust of their teams. By “walking the talk,” they can encourage everyone else to recognise that nobody is perfect and that there is value in continuously learning and improving. 

But let’s be honest, it’s impractical to handle everything alone. By stepping aside and trusting everyone else to play their part, from their unique position in the business, you can empower others to flourish, giving them the time, space, and authority to experiment, fail, and learn, aligning with your vision. Yet, too often, top leaders micromanage, critiquing based on personal biases, such as preferred methods and past experiences.

Avoid stifling autonomy to unlock your organisation’s full potential. Recognise your team’s brilliance, get out of the way, and don’t restrict their creativity with unnecessary limitations.

3. Create future Leaders

LinkedIn’s 2024 Workplace Learning report reveals that helping employees develop their careers is one of the top four focus areas for learning and development teams. What’s more, career development support has risen to the fourth priority, up from number nine last year–proving its value.

When it comes to creating future leaders, those at the very top who think longer-term about their business’ leadership needs can focus on developing their successors and ensure the organisation’s continued health. By providing opportunities for other leaders, they effectively prepare the business for the future. Anticipating needs over a longer time horizon means Enterprise Leaders can develop the leaders of the future before the business needs them, ensuring they can continue to drive positive change and deliver results in years to come.

A bonus is that this also helps to secure leadership talent, inspiring leaders to commit to the business for the foreseeable future and protecting the retention of valuable knowledge and impact.

To inspire future leaders, Enterprise Leaders should communicate authentically through storytelling and encourage innovative thinking. They must anticipate future needs and develop the leadership needed to meet them. So, as the pace of change increases, leadership behaviour, and conditions must adapt accordingly. 

 I realised that you don’t transform mindsets through tasks, but you transform them through people – this is the power you have as a leader. – LIW TRANSFORM participant, Senior Leadership Team

LIW partnered with a global pharmaceutical company to create a flagship leadership development programme for senior leaders in or about to take on important global roles and requiring an enterprise mindset. It said: “… we found purpose, inspiration, and creativity in our shared vision to continue to help our leaders lead and grow at a time when it was more needed than ever before.” 

4. Lead transformation

As organisations undergo major changes to stay competitive, incremental improvements aren’t enough. Instead, business’ need to make substantial, transformative changes to keep pace with rapid developments. 

Enterprise leaders play a critical role in driving this transformational journey. They must guide their organisations through strategic shifts, restructuring, and cultural changes necessary to thrive. This involves setting not only a clear vision for the future but also inspiring and empowering other leaders throughout the entire organisation to align with this vision and drive change from within. This may involve reimagining traditional business models to better meet the needs of customers and stakeholders or reallocating budgets to invest in new initiatives and technologies that will drive growth and innovation.

This type of transformation requires a new perspective. Enterprise Leaders must develop the ability to see the whole organisation from a holistic vantage point, rather than looking outwards from their ‘home team’ or functional responsibilities. Consider the familiar prompt; to ‘get on the balcony, rather than the dance floor’. Enterprise Leaders must learn to see the business from above the collective balconies as most organisations have more than one, it’s from this perspective Enterprise Leaders can develop essential line of sight and truly leverage their unique position in the business.

From this viewpoint Enterprise Leaders see a different story and gain insight into innovative ways to mobilise, organise and energise people, teams, and resources to get the job done, keeping a keen eye on progress toward strategic goals. This ensures alignment with the vision, driving transformation and ensuring their organisation’s success both now and in the future.

Further reading:  Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins

Create lasting business impact with LIW

Top Enterprise leaders follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “To see change, I must change.” In doing so, they have the courage to leap into a boundaryless future.

Focus on the four key areas we’ve identified and create a lasting impact. With vision and determination, you can shape your organisation’s future.

LIW has worked extensively to develop leadership at all levels. We hope this Blog has provided valuable insight and would love to hear from you if you have thoughts you would like to share or would value a conversation about Leadership.


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