Recommendations of 29th World Congress on Leadership for Business Excellence and Innovation

Prof. (Dr) Colin Coulson-Thomas

By Prof Colin Coulson-Thomas

For many companies there is a case for a fundamental review of what is meant by excellence and what the focus should be in relation to both innovation and excellence. Some boards may need to engage with a wider range of stakeholders and rethink their approaches and priorities in the face of environmental, resource, sustainability and other concerns.

In a changing context and when the future cannot be easily foreseen, many boards may no longer have time to go through a traditional cycle of strategy analysis, formulation and implementation. Current leadership and governance practices may need to be replaced by more agile and flexible approaches to adapting to changing circumstances.

The rigid top down implementation of board strategies, priorities and decisions can stifle questioning, discourage debate and prevent the emergence of alternative ideas. A board should be confident and open to new possibilities. Directors should make people feel safe and be willing to express concerns, explore fresh ideas and suggest new approaches.

Strategic innovation can lead to new business models, industries, sectors and markets. Many boards should put a higher priority upon stimulating creativity, enabling innovation and its successful commercialization, and supporting entrepreneurship. Rather than look for better ways of playing old games, more boards should invent new ones that are affordable and inclusive, less demanding of resources and impose fewer burdens upon the environment.

For many companies the pace of adaptation needs to be speeded up and its scope and scale increased. Board and corporate structures and practices need to enable continual, intelligent and organic learning and adaptation to changing requirements and priorities. Boards must understand the factors that drive resistance to change and be more persistent in overcoming them.

Where existing preoccupations, priorities, strategies, development paths and business models are no longer sustainable, boards should have the courage to adopt a different business model and/or corporate purpose. They and those for whom they are responsible must be adaptable, resilient and capable of imagining new options and creating alternative enterprises.

Technological developments are revolutionizing communications, participation, markets, operations, work, learning, buying and selling. Boards need to be responsibly ambitious and practical in terms of the possibilities explored and the ambitions they set for reinvention and redesign. Corporate capabilities can be supplemented by complementary collaborators.

Stakeholders and younger people sometimes question whether directors will adopt more sustainable and less environmentally damaging models of operation. Some boards may need to redefine corporate purpose, excellence, quality, performance, productivity and success in terms of reducing environmental and resource footprints and addressing climate change.

Prof. (Dr) Colin Coulson-Thomas, President of the Institute of Management Services, has helped directors in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. In addition to directorships he leads the International Governance Initiative of the Order of St Lazarus, is Director-General, IOD India, UK and Europe, Chairman of United Learning’s Risk and Audit Committee, Chancellor and a Professorial Fellow at the School for the Creative Arts, Honorary Professor at the Aston India Foundation for Applied Research, a Distinguished Professor and President of the Council of International Advisors at the Sri Sharada Institute of Indian Management-Research, Visiting Professor of Direction and Leadership at Lincoln International Business School, and a member of the advisory board of the Aravind Foundation and ACCA’s Governance, Risk and Performance Global Forum.

An experienced chairman of award winning companies and vision holder of successful transformation programmes, Colin is the author of over 60 books and reports. He has held public appointments at local, regional and national level and professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East, India and China. He was educated at the London School of Economics, London Business School, UNISA and the Universities of Aston, Chicago and Southern California. He is a fellow of seven chartered bodies, obtained first place prizes in the final exams of three professions and obtained the CSR Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 CSR Leadership Summit. Details of his books and reports can be found here.

Note: The 2019 Dubai Global Convention and the 29th World Congress on Leadership for Business Excellence and Innovation was organised by India’s Institute of Directors.

Transformational Leadership for an Agile and Innovative Corporate Strategy 



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