Partnerships & Global Leadership: Three Key Lessons

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

CEO of Ideagen, "Where the World's Leading Companies Convene" to achieve the 17 Global Goals by 2030.

Since co-founding and leading Ideagen over a decade ago, George has crafted countless cross-sector, collective impact partnerships among the world's leading companies, NGO's and public sector organizations. George has served in all branches of the federal government including as a Presidential appointee for two US Presidents and U.S. Senate Committee staffer.

In my many discussions and interviews with global leaders and luminaries, I have found a recurring theme: The most successful leaders focus on cultivating these three types of partnerships on an ongoing basis

The importance of leadership during times of crisis is often misunderstood. The most effective leaders are always operating in crisis mode, meaning they are planning for sustainability of operations and always looking around corners for the next opportunity and also for potential roadblocks.

The most effective leaders are always looking to develop and enhance partnerships. Partnerships can look different depending on the situation. For example, partnerships can be developed with a customer or vendor to develop new products or services as part of a broader strategic plan. There are countless examples of companies that have developed partnerships with clients and vendors that have resulted in a higher level of sustainability and resiliency when there is a downturn or crisis."Coopetition" — cooperating with your competition — is the second form of partnership that many companies tend to avoid and overlook due to the inherent lack of trust that inhibits partnering with a competing organization. This type of partnership should focus on critical expansion and sustainability to enhance operations, provide new product or service lines and, ultimately, provide sustainability during a period of crisis.

The third form of partnerships, and perhaps one of the most important and effective, are cross-sector partnerships. These partnerships focus on the development of cross-sector engagement, which is often an afterthought. Cross-sector partnerships could include a sports team partnering with a food vendor to provide food for a community's homeless population or a technology company partnering with a health care provider to provide more efficient access to health care for consumers.

Partnerships from across sectors, in a coopetition format and simpler customer-vendor examples, enable a company to prepare for any type of disruption. In my many discussions and interviews with global leaders and luminaries, I have found a recurring theme: The most successful leaders focus on cultivating these three types of partnerships on an ongoing basis and embed this focus in their strategic planning at every level of operations.

Though some think that focusing on partnerships should not be part of a company's core mission, the following example illustrates why not prioritizing partnerships is a critical flaw when designing and operating a resilient company.

During the current global situation, companies that have an understanding of core capabilities, operations, services and products of their partners and have a mature relationship can quickly pivot to retool and recalibrate and create new products, services and operations in light of headwinds and changing economic conditions. Particularly relevant examples right now could be a car manufacturer that quickly retools a plant to develop respirators for hospitals and clinics or a distillery that quickly adapts and refocuses product production to hand sanitizer to assist communities and health professionals.

These examples highlight the importance of remaining flexible while always employing strategic foresight to develop partnerships when economic conditions are thriving. Prepare for the inevitable crisis moment by having a network effect plan for partnerships infusing the three key and critical elements: partnerships with vendors and clients, coopetition and cross-sector partnerships.

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