GUT CHECK: Are You Leading For The Long Haul?

July 23, 2014 Vince Molinaro
GUT CHECK: Are You Leading For The Long Haul?

Wendell P. Weeks, the Chairman, CEO and President of Corning Incorporated last week faced his shareholders at his company’s annual meeting and delivered a firm message:

The business he leads is built for longevity.

Corning is a 163-year old company that’s had to face a series of recent challenges in a tough business environment.

Chief among them is the fact that it’s industry-leading Gorilla Glass – a component in almost all tough-screen smart phones made throughout the world – will not be used in the next-generation Apple iPhone 6. That has caused many market watchers and sector analysts to wonder aloud about the future of the iconic glassmaker.

I’m sure every leader can relate. When change hits a particular business, it’s only natural that people question the ability of leadership to adapt. Weeks demonstrates a textbook strategy for dealing with that kind of scepticism.

Rather than downplaying the obvious challenges Corning was facing, Weeks expressed his belief that the company is now firmly focused on creating new opportunities to fuel the company’s next surge of growth.

Weeks told shareholders Corning has had a history of innovating their way through challenging times.  He noted that Corning has always been a company that found the next generation of solutions that made a positive difference in the lives of its customers.

“Our products change, our markets change, and our businesses change,” said Weeks. “But what doesn’t change is our capacity for innovation, our unique capability set, and our ability to transform and lead markets.”

Corning’s story isn’t unique. Every business and every leader face similar challenges as they try to grow. Yet, not all businesses thrive in these periods of transition and change. When the moment calls for innovation, some businesses simply fall back on past practices and products.

Corning’s story made me wonder: just how many leaders aspire to build a business for longevity?

Far too many businesses seem to focus solely on the next quarterly results, rather than looking years down the road to identify the future opportunities and challenges that will come into play. This isn’t a new observation. And yet, so many leaders seem stuck in this short-term rut.

One of the best ways to fulfill your leadership obligations is to build a company with real longevity. One that is able to withstand the shock of abrupt market shifts and unforeseen changes in business trends.

That’s pretty easy to say. But what does it take to create that kind of leadership?

It’s essential that you doggedly focus your organization – from front-line employees to the board of directors – on long-term goals. This means fending off the tendency to focus too much on the present.

In place of that quarter-to-quarter, whack-a-mole approach, push your people to build a truly sustainable business model – one that has solutions in place for any contingency and new ideas queued up and ready to go to replace the old ideas.

What about you? This week’s gut check question asks: Are you leading for the long haul?

Follow me @VinceMolinaro

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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