Why You Should Break From Tradition When It Comes to Building Your Leadership Team


General Assembly campus in London

Nearly every company in the world is being shaped by new waves of technology, communication, and interaction with customers. Digital forces in particular are a huge concern for every one of the companies we work with at General Assembly. Leaders know they need to boost their digital readiness. But there remains the question of how to actually transform their organization, and what that can mean for their customers, employees, and shareholders.

During my 30-year career, I led Procter & Gamble’s Baby, Beauty, and Asia businesses, culminating with running P&G e-business — everything from helping to architect the digital transformation, to the incorporation of virtual tools, to develop breakthrough products and supply systems to digital marketing and eCommerce. I’ve harnessed my insights from three decades in the field to help companies answer that question of “How?” One clear way to make it happen is by improving leadership skills and creating digital leaders.

Skilled, forward-thinking digital leaders aren’t necessarily going to come from traditional places or even traditional schools. And for a company that is not on the leading edge of digital knowhow and technologies, they may not even come from inside your company (at least until you actually train them on these critical capabilities).

You may need to look in more unconventional places.

While in Asia, I was fortunate to have a young associate director with an uncanny ability to manipulate large amounts of data, understand it, and connect it to real business insights that drove business growth. As P&G’s business leader of Asia, I saw that data was becoming ever more critical to our business. However, my lead team, while filled with excellent business leaders, did not have the kind of data savvy and analytic capability I felt we needed to drive the business.

So, I asked the young AD to join my lead-team business meetings, even though his position was technically several levels below the others on my team. In a company where tenure and experience are nearly always paramount, this was a highly unconventional move. However, it enabled an entirely new and critical ability for our business. From this experience, I began to shape how the company was evolving digitally, meaning we could be better positioned for the future.

Here’s the bottom line: In the digital age, talent and tenure do not go hand in hand. You have to be ready to break with traditional sources of talent to bring in new abilities from wherever they are to get the job done.

Find untraditional talent and build your team.

Evaluate skills and identify talent.

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