André Calantzopoulos knows firsthand about the changing business landscape. As CEO of Philip Morris International, he has seen his company change from a major cigarette producer to a company developing products that reduce the risk of using tobacco or nicotine. By changing the makeup of the products, Phillip Morris avoids exposing its customers to dangerous nicotine and releasing harmful chemicals into their lungs. Part of the journey has included convincing people who smoke to switch to safer products or quit, which André says is not an easy task.
It’s rare that a company decides to disrupt itself, as André says, and it takes a strong leader to survive major organizational changes. André has worked for PMI for more than 30 years, starting as a business development analyst and working his way up to CEO in 2013. He has seen remarkable change in the company in that time and has played a major role in transforming how Phillip Morris interacts with customers and the type of products and marketing it develops. He now oversees more than 77,000 employees around the world.
As part of the research for my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world to get their insights on what it will take to be a successful leader over the next decade and beyond. André’s unique experience as a transformational leader created a fascinating discussion. You can learn more and get a copy of the book with all of the insights and research at GetFutureLeaderBook.com.
Here are some of what André shared about leading major change within an organization and the skills all future leaders need to have to be ready to change.
First, he believes that core leadership values and principles don’t change, but the context around leadership has evolved with new technology and consumer trends. Today’s on-demand world puts everything in real time and impacts innovation cycles, response to consumer cycles, and a demand for instant reactions and information. To keep up, companies need to be ready to adapt and be agile to move with new changes. There isn’t a single function that can resolve everything anymore, which means leaders need to facilitate fluidity in their organizations to find the right solutions and responses to various issues and changes.
Future leaders need to be entrepreneurs. They shouldn’t be afraid to disrupt things, because if they don’t proactively disrupt they will likely end up being disrupted by someone or something else. Organizations used to have a few years to see a trend and adjust, but today’s leaders must anticipate change and move forward quickly.
With changes comes the need to have intimate knowledge of consumers. Organizations need to understand customers’ needs and leverage data to equip themselves with the right insights. At the same time, leaders also need to know their employees so they can put the right people in the right places. André says employees connect with purpose and challenges and want to work for companies that provide both. A consumer and employee perspective on a sense of purpose is increasingly important to understanding people and keeping the company ahead of change.
While they might not all evolve to the extent of PMI, all organizations are changing, either on their own accord or because they are being forced to by new technology and trends. To be successful in the future, leaders need to anticipate change, be comfortable with disruption, and connect with consumers and employees with a strong sense of purpose.
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