Leadership Summit: Don’t Just Set Strategy, Lead Change

Author: Barbara Palmer       

leadership summit

Jimmy Williams Jr., executive director and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, speaks Jan. 6 at the Leadership Summit. (Jacob Slaton)

However rapidly things have been changing — get ready, consultant Peter Sheahan, CEO of Karrikins Group, told industry leaders Jan. 6 at PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2019. “The last five years have seen the slowest rate of change that you can expect to experience in your lifetimes.”

The group gathered Sunday morning at the Westin Convention Center for the Leadership Summit, the first day of a two-day-long intensive workshop organized around questions of leadership and transformation.

For organizations and those who lead them, “it is no longer a question whether you need to change, it’s how to change,” Jimmy Williams Jr., executive director and a professor at the Engineering and Technology Innovation Management Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also told the group.

Technological changes have driven previous cycles of industrial revolution, Williams said, but the Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing both technological change and changes to business models, he said. “This is a very different world, and what got us here won’t get us there.”

One of the first steps that leaders should take is to become willing to tell themselves the truth, Sheahan said. Although change can seem to come out of nowhere, the signs that industries are fundamentally changing are detectable years earlier, he said. Everyone knows the trends that are affecting the industry, but it is easy to confuse knowledge of what’s happening with truly taking ownership for creating change and acting. “Transformation doesn’t come simply by being aware,” he said, “but by being capable of change.”

There is a shift in mindset that comes when leaders understand that change is not just happening to your organization, but is happening for you, he said. Then leaders begin to look through the lens of possibility rather than preserving and protecting the status quo, he said.

Leading is not the same thing as setting strategy, Sheahan added. The harder thing to do is influencing people to change. Leaders who begin to see their roles primarily as leading change, and not as setting strategy, will accelerate their growth “at an unheard-of rate.”

Today, participants will hear presentations on the digital revolution and changing role of cities at a Forum on Economic and Social Progress. The two-day invitation-only summit was designed to change the conversation around leadership and transformation, said PCMA President and CEO Sherrif Karamat, bringing together disparate stakeholders in the business events industry with experts from other industries. Business events are a platform for global economic and social transformation, but as an industry, Karamat said, “we have tended to focus on what we do, not on why we do it.”