Developing the Next Generation of Enterprise Leaders

Aspiring corporate leaders first learn to build and implement visions for their individual business units. But as they advance in their careers, executives also must learn how to lead with an enterprise perspective.

Anat Gabriel is managing director and chairman of Unilever Israel, a relatively small operation that sells the usual array of Unilever products but also has two categories of its own, a breakfast cereal brand called Telma and a line of snack foods that are unavailable anywhere else. She calls them “local jewels”; they account for about a third of the Israeli unit’s business.

Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer goods company, operates in nearly 200 countries and owns brands including Dove soap and Lipton tea.1 It expects Unilever Israel to promote the company’s global brands, but the local unit is still expected to make its numbers, which means that Gabriel must also invest in the local products such as Telma cereal. Gabriel’s team doesn’t always understand the trade-offs she has to make — decisions to support global brands inevitably take away from local initiatives. “To be successful,” she said, “I must work with my team to align our agenda locally in Israel with the broader Unilever enterprise agenda. I need to help my people see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.”

Gabriel is a sterling example of an “enterprise leader” — an executive who is as successful at serving the needs of the enterprise as she is at growing the unit she heads — and CEOs want more leaders like her. A survey we recently conducted of top business executives from major international organizations found that 79% said it was extremely important to have leaders who act on behalf of the entire organization and not just their units.2 The rest said it was very important. And nearly 65% of those surveyed said they expected at least half of their senior and midlevel managers to behave as enterprise leaders.3

The reasons are obvious. Customers increasingly want integrated solutions instead of products,4 so different business units need to work together seamlessly. Companies are also attempting to share resources more efficiently across functional, geographic, and business unit boundaries.

References

1. “About Us,” 2015, www.unilever.com.

2. D.A. Ready and M.E. Peebles, International Consortium for Executive Development Research (ICEDR)-sponsored research on enterprise leaders, June-August 2014.

3. Ibid.

4. D. Midgley, “Understanding Customers in the Solution Economy,” August 24, 2012, http://hbr.org.

5. J.I. Cash, Jr., M.J. Earl, and R. Morison, “Teaming Up to Crack Innovation and Enterprise Integration,” Harvard Business Review 86, no. 11 (November 2008): 90-100.

6. Ready and Peebles, ICEDR-sponsored research.

7. D.A. Ready, “Leading at the Enterprise Level,” MIT Sloan Management Review 45, no. 3 (spring 2004): 87-91.

8. L.A. Hill, “Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership” (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2003).

9. “About Us,” 2015, www.lifung.com.

10. M. Kristal, “Frye: The Boots That Made History — 150 Years of Craftsmanship” (New York: Rizzoli, 2013).

11. D.L. Dotlich, P.C. Cairo, and C. Cowan, “The Unfinished Leader: Balancing Contradictory Answers to Unsolvable Problems” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014).

12. T.J. Erickson and L. Gratton, “What It Means to Work Here,” Harvard Business Review 85, no. 3 (March 2007): 104-112.

13. E.H. Schein, “Organizational Culture and Leadership” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985).

14. B. George and P. Sims, “True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007).

15. W.G. Bennis and R.J. Thomas, “Geeks and Geezers: How Era, Values, and Defining Moments Shape Leaders” (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002).

16. W.W. George, K.G. Palepu, C.I. Knoop, and M. Preble, “Unilever’s Paul Polman: Developing Global Leaders,” Harvard Business School case no 413-097 (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2013).

17. M.W. McCall, Jr., M.M. Lombardo, and A.M. Morrison, “The Lessons of Experience: How Successful Executives Develop on the Job” (New York: Free Press, 1988).

18. M. Goldsmith and M. Reiter, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful” (New York: Hyperion, 2007).

19. D.A. Ready, J.A. Conger, and L.A. Hill, “Are You a High Potential?” Harvard Business Review 88, no. 6 (June 2010): 78-84.

20. M.W. McCall, Jr., “High Flyers: Developing the Next Generation of Leaders” (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 1998).

21. D.A. Ready, “How Storytelling Builds Next-Generation Leaders,” MIT Sloan Management Review 43, no. 4 (summer 2002): 63-69; D. Ancona, T.W. Malone, W.J. Orlikowski, and P.M. Senge, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader,” Harvard Business Review 85, no. 2 (February 2007): 92-100; and J.P. Spillane, “Distributed Leadership” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006).

22. R.A. Shafer, L. Dyer, J. Kilty, J. Amos, and G.A. Ericksen, “Crafting a Human Resource Strategy to Foster Organizational Agility: A Case Study,” working paper 00-08, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, Ithaca, New York, 2000.

23. R.L. Martin, “The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking” (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2007).

24. J. Kurtzman, “Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve the Extraordinary” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010).

25. M.M. Pillutla, D. Malhotra, and J.K. Murnighan, “Attributions of Trust and the Calculus of Reciprocity,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 39, no. 5 (September 2003): 448-455.