Many people view it as an automatic and seamless transition from a full time, permanent executive position into a non-executive, advisory one and from there into a portfolio career, yet there is a thin line between having a successful career and being unemployable.
In simple terms, yesterday’s experience and successes are no longer enough to obtain the next role. In the fast-paced and continuously evolving digital age, those people who struggle to find appropriate opportunities tend to focus solely on what they have done in the past, regarding it as the lifeline to new opportunities. All it means, however, is that they have been successful before but that does not guarantee that they will be successful again, nor that their advice will change the fortunes of a company tomorrow.
We are now undergoing a major economic shift, where business value increasingly accrues at the intersection of the digital and virtual worlds. In this new competitive landscape, a new “machine” for work is emerging, powered by data, algorithms, automation and artificial intelligence.
Now is the time to ask what it takes to lead a company through this shift. Leadership behaviours forged over the last century clearly need updating for the digital age. Some leaders will sense the opportunity, while others will buckle under the pressure of fast-changing technology, intensifying customer expectations and waves of hungry start-ups snapping at their heels. The role of the leader has never been this complex, difficult, uncertain – or important. Given these shifts, changes in leadership approaches are mandatory.
Executives who are successful in making the transition into non-executive or advisory positions in today’s market understand that there are two key components of self-awareness they must achieve before they can transition:
They are able to demonstrate their marketability as outputs which are the product of how they operate as much as what they have done. It is these outputs that they view as a tradable asset or collection of assets which other organisations will be prepared to buy because of their value to them. This is then linked to a third component; a clear understanding of the issues the prospective employer faces which may or may not require a modification of behaviour in order to achieve the new set of objectives.
The key differentiator of executives who successfully move into portfolio careers is the capability to talk the language of potential employers; articulating strategies and tactics to solve problems based on their own experiences, behaviours, achievements and a vision of the future. They enter a recruitment process with a clear understanding of how they can answer the challenges that the company is facing. At the very least they communicate a vision of what tomorrow will look like and an opinion on the strategies and tactics the employing company must adopt, convincing employers of their capability to help them navigate through the unchartered waters of uncertainty and unprecedented pace of change.