Strong leaders forge an intersection of knowledge and experience

Craig Lemasters on challenges of leading a company through a digital transformation.

By Jenn Webb
March 23, 2020

Rita J. King, co-director and EVP for business development at Science House, recently conducted a series of interviews with business leaders, exploring the challenges and hurdles companies face in evolving business landscapes. In this interview, King chats with Craig Lemasters, CEO of Global Executive Group, about what companies face when navigating the digital transformation. They also talk about the power of humility and what it means to be an agile leader.

Here are some highlights from their conversation:

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“Digital transformation” means something different to every company. The key to successfully traversing the transformation, Lemasters explains, is to identify specifically what it means to a particular company. In his case, he was running a global insurance company called Assurance Solutions, and he identified two specific areas of focus: “we knew we needed to have a digital relationship with the end consumer. … [And] we knew we needed to have some type of digital distribution model.” (02:33)

To succeed in a new space, Lemasters came to realize, requires both knowledge and experience—an intersection Lemasters uses to define “wisdom.” This realization led to Lemasters’ big “ah-ha!” moment: “The stumbling block for digital was, quite frankly, that we didn’t have either knowledge or experience on digital, and it started with me. I mean, it started with me even as a CEO. I started looking at my team and realized none of us really had a lot of knowledge and experience on this thing called digital. The whole “ah-ha” experience was that speed bump. What if we inserted knowledge and experience into the room—could we get to the point much quicker? That’s what’s become my passion — how do we interject this thing called wisdom into the conversation, into the process, just to get us there faster?” (05:40)

Lemasters argues that humility is key to being a strong, agile leader. Being able to make decisions at the rate of speed required today takes, if not a village, at least some additional expertise. “The ‘humility quotient’ is the willingness for leaders to literally embrace outside thinking,” Lemasters explained. “Some would call it criticism; it really isn’t. I mean, most of this work is about the unknown, and you just haven’t been there yet. What I found is if we just have enough humility to accept that and actually invite in some people who have the wisdom in these swim lanes, increasing the speed at which we learn, we get over ourselves pretty quickly.” (11:16)

Post topics: Future of the Firm
Post tags: Big Systemic Thinking

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