It's lonely at the top. Is that still contemporary?

Leaders need an easy way to ask for a second opinion

Our market is changing at a pace that is constantly increasing and with it, the demands on business management. Executives are reaching their limits especially when it comes to digitization: Business models change, innovation processes have to be redesigned and employees make new demands on a company. 

A comprehensive survey of 1,160 executives and board chairs, conducted in 2016 by INSEAD, finds that people in leadership positions are often overwhelmed.

"The old ways of running a company won't cut it in a digital world.(.) Yet, top corporate leaders are not taking charge of digitising their organisations and most board members lack the knowledge and awareness necessary to lead a digital transformation." (Liri Andersson & Ludo Van der Heyden)

I have helped shape many transformation processes in management positions at companies such as Deutsche Bank, KPMG, Bearingpoint, Deutsche Post DHL Group and the Otto Group. Later, I also worked as an independent corporate developer for medium-sized and large companies. In the process, I learned:

Corporate development with its market analyses and strategy papers is only one answer to these uncertainties. Simple models like

e for example the Serious Sevenhelp us to deal with change in a structured way, to manage dependencies, but they only get us halfway to our goal. The other half is not contested by structures and roles, like CEOs or COOs, but by people. People with strengths and weaknesses, with a certain collection of expertise and very different gaps in that knowledge. With different motivations, with good and bad days. And in their fast-moving everyday lives in the environment described, complex situations arise every day for which solutions have to be found.

As a rule, the answers cannot be found by leafing through strategy papers, nor is there time to commission the right paper. It simply takes a lot of experience and perhaps a very specific expertise that one person alone cannot always bring. And sometimes it simply needs a neutral pair of glasses - a second look from the outside. And quickly. 

Who is there that we can ask?

But who can leaders turn to when they reach the limits of knowledge and experience? The options are limited. 

In a management consultancy , it is probably difficult for me to find a contact person with a certain competence and operational professional experience in a similar position ad hoc and in direct access. Often there are also non-competition clauses for exchange or the colleagues are committed in mandates.

With one's own colleagues , political calculations quickly come into play. Am I undermining my own authority? Are there self-interests that my interlocutor is pursuing? Often, the team simply does not have the relevant special competence.

In thecircle of friends and acquaintances , there may be one or two contact persons for individual topics, but certainly not for all questions, and how often do we want to bring up topics from work at all in the evening?

So with all these options, there are hurdles to overcome, which often lead to the exchange being dispensed with altogether. 

We need new models for sparring

With we have started an experiment to address this dilemma. Wouldn't it be wonderful if managers could call up the experience they are lacking on an ad-hoc basis in complete transparency? Or simply ask for a second opinion? We have only just started with Brain Orchestra, so I would appreciate feedback. A second opinion. Your experience.

Are more flexible online sparring options an answer to loneliness at the top?Feel free to write in the comments or via email:

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