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With society and business-facing an unprecedented level of global disruption, the time for us to all to be better connected and empowered to deal with uncertainty and complexity is now. Hosted by SAPs New Ventures & Technology group, this Executive Sessions Series focussed on Systems Leadership, creates a casual, and open connection and community for technology executives from SAP’s ecosystem, including leaders from some of the world’s leading consumer goods, energy, manufacturing, technology, and retail brands.

Facilitated by Stanford GSB Lecturer Robert Siegel, and SAPs Chief Innovation Officer, Max Wessel, this five-week series guides leaders through crafted case-studies, and discussion to apply insights to real-world situations. In these articles, we will share insights to help you better understand, not just what leaders are experiencing, but the approaches to leading through uncertainty and complexity.

Week 1: Leading through uncertainty.

In our first week of discussion, we explored what it takes to lead change. What does it take to navigate through crises, market disruption, and forge a path where uncertainty is high and no roadmaps exist? We identified three key lessons to keep in mind as we tackle this topic:

  1. A development path based on a question: Would you re-hire yourself?

    • Aligned to the insight that Katrina Lake (Stitchfix) asks regularly and Gordon Moore might have provided, the world has changed. If we ask of ourselves and our teams what we would be hiring for during this current period – capabilities, experiences, and behaviors – would we fit the bill? If not, what can we do to learn and adjust to the current environment?

  1. Trust is a function of fact & context

    • In a changing environment, a strong leader’s job increasingly requires managing context. Our teams need to understand, even if our businesses are healthy, the macroeconomic implications of change on our suppliers, partners, customers, and society as a whole. One leader shared the difficulty in managing the demand-side of a manufacturing business – a challenge that is adjacent to their challenge of keeping supply chains resilient. Being connected to the broader context is central to systems leadership and will help our teams adapt to changes in strategy, positioning, and focus.

  1. A crisis can accelerate change instead of derailing It

    • This crisis highlights the need for leaders to address issues we know are important but in normal times we have the luxury to deprioritize. Supplier health programs, system resilience, and channel management often required transformation. The reality is that an 11-year bull market made it easy for people to concentrate on other topics and avoid important ones. The need to accelerate isn’t for a lack of awareness –execution can now happen at an even more rapid pace than expected.

This is the first of a 5-part series in which we will highlight and share these lessons learned - look out for upcoming posts each week!