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  • AlixPartners' CEO Simon Freakley shares how leaders can make effective decisions and manage disruption during uncertain times on the latest Meet The Leader podcast.

COVID-19 changed how we live and do business - but it's not the main disruption worrying leaders.

According to research released by AlixPartners this past spring, leaders are concerned about a host of shifts, including: the pace of technological change, unknown regulatory shifts and the entrance of new competitors and business models. Such shifts exist in a world roiling with social disparities and climate crises.


Surprisingly, many surveyed aren't confident their organizations can survive such uncertainty. According to AlixPartners' Disruption Index, only 43% of C-suite leaders are confident their organization could "withstand disruptive forces". The shares are smaller - around a third - for senior and mid-senior level leaders.

Understanding disruption - and how leaders can be successful during uncertainty - is the focus of ongoing research by global management consultancy AlixPartners. By understanding disruption, CEO Simon Freakley told podcast Meet The Leader, we can understand opportunity. "There's a lot of opportunity inherent in disruption and the best companies, the best management teams, will be at the leading edge of that."

Most executives don't feel confident in their organisation's ability to withstand disruptive forces.
Most executives don't feel confident in their organisation's ability to withstand disruptive forces.
Image: Disruption Index, AlixPartners

Those who pay close attention to emerging trends and needs can better develop their products, services and routes to market and create new opportunities for themselves. "Markets are developing and morphing all of the time," said Freakley. "The best business leaders can often read where the markets are going."

Classic approaches also have a role, however. On this week's Meet The Leader, Freakley shared approaches for working with people that he learned as an apprentice for his father's boat building business. Simple approaches like listening with respect can anchor leaders in uncertain times.

Freakley discussed his thoughts on disruption and how successful leaders can manage it on the latest Meet The Leader. To hear more about Freakley's approaches and lessons learned, check out this week's episode.

How leaders drive forward in uncertain times:

A range of tactics and approaches can help successful leaders move forward when the way is not clear.

Stir the pot. Imagine what an activist investor might say about your company to think about your company in new ways. Then consider: what are the opportunities you haven't maximized and the markets you haven't entered.

Look ahead. Historical data is an unworthy fortune teller and can force you to overlook fast-changing markets. Said Freakley: "I think that one has to be on constant alert for disruption because you can't measure disruption by trailing indicators."

Find your voice. As leaders navigate social change, be able to articulate your position on key issues that are meaningful to your staff and consumers. "We often say that chief executives have to be their own chief communication officers. This isn't something you can delegate to a PR department."

"A good strategy executed with rigour and pace will outperform a perfect strategy executed poorly every time."

—Simon Freakley, CEO, AlixPartners


Seek patterns. Disruption drives economic cycles, said Freakley, and disruption cycles can be more regular than economic ones. According to research the firm conducted, "The old rules of trying to read the economic cycles became secondary, anticipating the cycles of disruption and how they butted up against each other now was the new challenge."

Listen. If you listen carefully and with with curiosity, you'll understand how a change is impacting stakeholders and you can engage them for the journey ahead. "Listening, showing respect and having some empathy is absolutely critical to dealing with some of the difficult things that business leaders have to handle."

Move quickly.
You will never have all the input and information you need. Instead, make the best decision possible anchored by your core values. Remember: you can move ahead and pivot if necessary when new information becomes available. Freakley says: "A good strategy executed with rigour and pace will out perform a perfect strategy executed poorly every time."

Articles on how leaders can manage disruption and change by Simon Freakley

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