How Nokia recalibrated its leadership to not know everything

When McKinsey performed an organisational health index check on Nokia in 2014 the technology giant’s leadership was ranked in the bottom quartile.

Following a reassessment of which skills were most important in its leaders and implementing a change programme promoting the benefits of “unlearning”, the business improved its rating to the top half of all those McKinsey assessed.

Speaking at the HR Directors Business Summit, Nokia global head of leadership development Joel Casse explained: “We have leaders who are still anchored on basic assumptions that need to be challenged.

“For instance, that leadership knows all. This is no longer going to work. In my world, leaders are starting to sense that we need to change the way we lead.”

The management appraisal of its top 100 executives was an eye-opening experience. It revealed that while the leadership were talented technicians, siloed decision making and failure to collaborate was detrimental to the success of their teams.

And as a direct result, the organisation as a whole suffered. This lesson was well learned as Nokia implemented training to specifically address these issues.

Casse said: “We want our leaders to be much more innovative, much more creative, to learn and unlearn. These competencies are in high demand but low supply. And so we purposefully selected these because if we get them right, we will be ahead of the competition.”

This new understanding of what the organisation needed in its leadership team was reflected in the re-assessment as by late 2015 McKinsey had upgraded the leadership portion of its organisational health to the second quartile.

Casse added: “We now need leaders at Nokia who have a healthy tension between knowing and not knowing; who can be short term focused but also long term focused; leaders who can look at costs as well as investments. But ultimately, leadership is about getting results through others; we firmly believe it is about supporting and challenging your people, not telling them what to do.”

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