April 16

Colouring outside the lines: Say goodbye to beige leadership


What colour is your leadership style? Shades of beige, or a riot of ideation and colourful innovation?

Beige leaders are complacent in their role of ‘superiority’. They are accepting of traditional methods, and the way things have always been done. They are, more often than not, in ‘survival mode’, keeping their heads down and hoping that by keeping things moving along, their future will be secured. Beige leaders do not entertain change and are closed to new ideas and creative thinking. They are often lacking in vision and foresight, existing in the present and remaining closed to the possibilities of what could be.

As a consequence, they are unable to inspire others and find it difficult to work effectively in a team, particularly with people who are forward thinking.

Beige companies:

  • Find it difficult to compete

with new players entering the market that are challenging their products or services, delivering solutions that are better, quicker and cheaper;

  • Are secretive and insular

Decisions are made behind closed doors, mandates are shared in mass format, meetings consist of ‘tells’ and the nodding of heads, and the real debate happens in hushed voices at the water filter or coffee machine;

  • Lose customers

Their customers move their allegiance to the ‘new kid on the block’ who is offering a better product with improved functionality or service and a value add to them;

  • Struggle to attract, recruit and retain talent

Staff become disengaged, products become stale, business slows down, and profits decline;

The result?

Beige leaders lead beige companies, and the self-propagating disaster of decline begins. Examples are everywhere from Atari, to Blockbuster.

Quite simply, beige leadership won’t cut it anymore.

Colourful innovation

Boston Consulting Group states that organisations must today shift their business model and leadership skills to become more adaptive; to be better, faster, and more economical than their competitors. The Harvard Business Review supports this sentiment in the article ‘The World of Leadership’, which states: “Its tough when markets change and your people within the company don’t.” The future needs leaders who are so comfortable in their space that they have the strength to lead and share, to learn and grow, who are actively curious and willing to give.

These leaders are capable of amplifying others; they build a culture that encourages and enables commercial collaboration, which drives change and innovation. The leaders of the future are the ones that are authentic, see the value in collaborative working, and create the space and freedom to ideate regardless of gender, race, age or seniority. They are agile, action-driven and results-oriented. They are focused and directional; strong in commitment and decisive in vision. The people and businesses that will ultimately succeed will be the ones that are capable of evolution and innovation. They will keep their eye on the ultimate goal and be willing to change their dance as required to get there.


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