To be successful leaders in the new world of ever more emerging EXO’s (exponential organisations http://exponentialorgs.com/) such as Uber, Airbnb, Google, Amazon etc., it is time to take off our corporate masks and start to speak a different language.

  • To become real.
  • To be human foremost.
  • To come alive.
  • To shift our language from a data, facts and logic driven idiom to an emphatic, emotional driven language that touches people at their core level.
  • A tongue that creates deep felt meaning and connection.
  • Fuels people to levels of performance not thought possible.
  • To give them wings by touching them deep in their being.

The Dilemma we face

Leaders are driven further and further to get more and more out of their people; to drive them to even higher performance and create more shareholder value (money) each quarter. Leaders today are expected to accelerate growth in their organisations on seemingly unhuman levels.

At the same time cost cutting is the reality. Leaving them with less and less room to maneuver and very little resources for growth. It is a pointless rat race that cannot be won. To make it even worse, the shareholders see those other organizations (EXO’s) who accelerated seemingly out of nowhere to great heights and now expect the same performance from their own investments into long standing corporations.

So what is going on here? How can it be that those new emerging EXO’s started with barely anything, out from a garage, and experienced accelerated growth in an exponential manner; becoming the LinkedIns, Facebooks, Airbnb’s etc. we see today? They did not have the resources or money large corporations have.

But somehow, magically they are in existence, against all odds. On the other side, large corporations, even though they have massive resources at their fingertips cannot make the jump to become an EXO.

What is it, those new emerging EXO’s have, that traditional, linear growing organisations do not have? What are those magic ingredients?


Purpose and Meaning

People in EXO’s are deeply driven by the need to create something big.
They have meaning in their lives, or better: their work is not just an 8 to 5 job – it is their life.
These EXO’s have people, who can dream and hold a vision of a very bright future; who work relentlessly to make their dream a reality.

In short, they have an MTP: A Massive Transformative Purpose.

They want to change the world on a grand scale. Their livelihood literally depends on it. They are fueled by their being and the need for self-actualization. These people have passion for what they do and who they are. And when they talk about their work, you can see their whole being light up.

Their eyes shine bright and you feel them to be alive, full of passion – you can sense the love they have for their work. You do not have to tell these people, how to do their work or that they have to do the work. They do it because it has become them. They completely identify themselves with what they do. As it is in line with who they are in their core; aligned with their purpose and vision.

They have grown wings, which lift them over seemingly insurmountable obstacles.


Passion – the language infecting others to collaborate

These people have the capability to connect to others and move them into their spell.

The language they use to create these connections is not: “If you join me you will earn X amount”. They use the language of the heart fueled with their passion. They touch others on their core level.

Like this, they create meaning in the lives of others, they give them direction. Therefore, people want to join and also become a part of something much greater than themselves. They create communities of mutual aid, understanding and openly sharing. Where seemingly random people come together and work in collaboration to make a bigger dream become reality.

What connects the people in the first place, is not facts and data, but a deeply felt, shared purpose; a purpose to make this world  a better place for everyone.

By using a new service, invention or technology which has become attainable for the huge masses, these people want to create something new, that will lift humanity onto a next level.


Shift and start to grow exponentially or die

In this new world of EXO’s, companies/communities which accelerate exponentially there is no room for the old style/ industrial age/ hierarchical master–worker control system leadership method. A method, which only speaks the language of quarterly financial driven results with cold facts and figures.

On the contrary –  this old management model is limiting and will eventually stop growth.

An EXO will inevitably come along over night and wipe out those traditional corporations. Examples: Nokia, Kodak and the like.


The new “Human core, Heart driven” Leader

We need a new type of leader for this new emerging, ever faster growing EXO world we are in now, if we want to succeed and catapult our organisations into the next decade.

We need leaders, who have the ability to connect to others on a meaningful deeply heartfelt level; Leaders, which see their role not in being the “Big Boss”, fueled by their own ego and personal agenda, fear and the need to control others, but who are humble and servant to their teams.

We need leaders, who understand and have empathy towards the core drivers of human beings.

Leaders, who understand that we have entered the post “food and shelter” -/ primarily money-driven stage on Maslow’s hierarchy of need, when dealing with EXO’s. Leaders, who fully embraced the world in which humans seek ever more the ability to direct their own life to fulfill their deepest need to make a difference and be a part of something bigger.  Leaders, who are driven to see their people succeed, over time have them become better than themselves and who accept, that they eventually will become obsolete. These leaders feel proud for each team member, which can walk by itself without any further help.


This new Breed : A truly advanced Being

To be a leader in this new world takes a personality who is truly advanced and knows and acknowledges him-/herself.

It takes someone, who

  • has battled and won over his/her own demons of fear; has tremendous courage in the face of uncertainty and adversity one enters when dealing with EXO’s and the world of innovation
  • possesses a great deal of confidence and trust in his/her and the team’s abilities
  • can hold a vision even if setbacks occur and sees failure as just yet another opportunity to have learned something new.
  • has the ability to fuel others with his/her passion and pull them into the spell of a new and bright future for everyone



A Story: How Companies standing in their own way towards a digital transformation

Throughout my IT career, I cannot count the numerous times, we have come up with the “perfect” technical solution. Allowing companies to digitally transform themselves, propelling them forward into a sustainable future.
Just to hit a dead end, because the current company structure and culture had no room for such transformations.

A little story
A very specific story comes to mind of a Fortune 100 company in Switzerland, whose main vision was and still is to become No 2 in their industry sector, through the means/differentiation of providing outstanding customer service.

In order to assist this company to undergo a needed digital transformation towards a customer-centric model, I put a team together of world-class experts, comprising of industry-and technology experts and consultants specialized in process re-engineering.

Very soon it became clear that their existing IT Systems, grown over the past 20 years in an organic and cumbersome manner, where not up for the job of putting the customer in the center of their companies universe.

The IT environment was comprised of many different applications, not really communicating with each other, requiring lots of manual data entry and duplication, full of custom code, patches and fixes here and there. A nightmare for any customer service person, needing to have to open many different applications to serve a client. No, this IT environment was definitely not customer centric.

But the worst still came. There was no way of making the existing environment customer centric. Due to the organic growth, and no proper implemented development methodology, nobody had an overview what those applications and its add-on really did. Meaning that any change required, ended up being highly risky and had a cycle time of over half a year. Agility and flexibility was out the window.

Nobody right in their mind would drive a car in such a condition. Held together by rubber bands and chewing gums. Such cars would not pass inspection. They would make the decision to scrap the car and get a new one. One that is fit for purpose, meets their current needs and is safe. Where they can predict operating, service and maintenance costs. But no… quiet often, when it comes to IT in organizations they keep on driving with this barely functioning car.

Also this organization, against any common sense, decided to keep on driving with this old car. Yet again they just applied some newer versions of their CRMs (yes you heard me… multiple CRM Systems), patches and quick fixes here and there. And today, 3 years later, they are still where they were 3 years ago… far away from a digital transformation with their customer needs at the core of their business dealings… and their vision to become Number 2 in their sector … well…

I have to add here, this story is just an example of so many companies I have seen over my 20 years career. I learned from the failures of huge corporations. Having had the opportunity to work as a consultant for companies such AIG or Exxon before their big crashes. Today I can predict with pretty good accuracy which company will make it to the top, stay mediocre or even go under based on their IT Systems, their company structure, culture and their leadership philosophy.

What happens with common sense driven approach in such organizations?

  1. Short Term mentality based on quick profit gains versus long term purpose and vision driven organization
    Today most organizations are driven and led by short term profits. Responding only to annual dividends and the quarterly margin gain needs, demanded by the share holders. Executives of such organizations have no room and no time to develop a long term and sustainable company. Indeed, their whole focus constantly goes into urgent and pressing issues. It leaves no room for implementing a long term vision with a fit for purpose organizational structure and supporting IT Systems. Frankly, most of these organizations do not even have a vision. And if they have one, they do not base their actions and decisions on it.
  1. Self preservation versus a value creation driven organizatio
    Executives of such companies know if they do not bring the results here and now, next year they will be history. So they do the only thing they can do. They apply everywhere in the organization quick fixes, like chewing gums to their IT Systems, to keep the ship barely afloat as long as possible. They keep on flogging the dead horse by any means. Well, I do not have to say what this mentality does for the company culture and morale. It surely is not conducive of creating value for customers.
  1. Cost cutting measures versus empowering employees
    Cost cutting is at the core of those organizations. Decision power of financial budgets gets centralized even for the smallest amount. I know organizations where the MD can not even order a pencil. They drive on a reactive approach to meet yesterday’s financial goals instead of an active approach empowering their employees to increase their productivity/output. Even so numerous studies show that an empowered and intrinsically motivated employee produces in the range of 30% more profits or adds to the profits than their unmotivated and disillusioned counter parts. No, those cost cutting, short term driven organizations have no room to make a huge investment in a new IT System that has in average a 1 ½ to 2 years ROI. In many cases the Exec board cannot even make such a budget decision. And if you dig into it nobody can and will.
  1. Hiring and firing mentality versus talent retention and development mentality
    In such organizations it is the norm to see a new CEO and a complete new Exec team in place in intervals of 1 to 2 years. These organizations go in cycles of complete stand still for at least 6 months, nobody making any decision until a new Exec team is in place. Followed by cost cutting measures and firing wave and then maybe after a year the organization has time to take the focus away from themselves towards what really counts… their customer. But by then loyalty based on trust of customers and employees is down the drain, knowledge has been lost etc. It is basically devastating, especially if this cycle keeps repeating it self. Yes, and the IT systems… in year 2 they may start to look at it but until they are finished with the analysis and ready to make a decision, those decision makers are already replaced again.


As I am writing this I am starting to be amazed that such organizations can sustain as long as they do. The only explanation I can think of; is that each single one of these organizations has some very good people, keeping it all afloat, doing their jobs relentlessly. Because they follow their own inner values and beliefs. They are resilient to the craziness at the top and they keep out of politics.

Knowing such individuals personally, what makes them tick, their values and beliefs, maybe they should become leaders of the organizations. They believe in creating value for others by serving using servant leadership principles. They stay true to their beliefs and values, no matter what is going on around them. They are the true authentic leaders in the organization. So maybe all we have to do to turn such organizations around, catapulting them into the digital transformation age is changing the leadership approach, to the one used by the people who keep these organizations silently afloat in the background.