With so much change happening in the world of retail and in how shoppers shop, Fitzmaurice's point of view is that being a change leader is not optional today. "I personally believe that change leadership is a skill that most leaders need to lean into and have," he told the group.
However, he acknowledged that leadership — and change leadership, in particular — is not easy.
"Leadership is really, really hard. As you grow up and become a better leader, a stronger leader — managing people, managing bigger strategic initiatives — it's really hard," he said. "Throw in the layer of change leadership and it's not just about making things run efficiently and effectively; it's about thinking, holy crap, the world has changed and I can either be disrupted or I can go disrupt. That's empowering if you don't get scared by it, and I actually view younger leaders as more equipped to do this than older leaders."
While operational leadership is about directing people along a set course, change leadership is about moving a course to some different direction and getting your team to follow you.
Change leadership demands a different way of thinking and a different way of behaving. Change leaders are vision-centric, human-centric, communication-centric and trust-centric, Fitzmaurice explained. They are also adept at storytelling.
"If you're trying to be a change leader, you need to be really clear and make the case to people why they should change in the first place. You've got to inspire people. You've got to paint a big-picture thing. You've got to facilitate conversations day in and day out. You need to think more transformatively. You've got to tell a story compellingly over and over again,” he advised. "Bring people along, touch their heart and show them that you have a better way."
Engage, Engage, Engage
Clyde, who became president and CEO of Murphy USA in January 2013 as it prepared to spin off into a standalone public company, echoed the importance of engaging people and noted that for up-and-coming leaders, this means engaging those both above and below you.
"If there is one thing I want you to take away from my presentation today, it's this: Leadership is a contact sport,” he said. "It's not just one way. You have to engage your teams constantly. You've got to engage up and down, both ways. It applies at every level of the organization."
To do this, Clyde said a leader must create a safe environment for engagement — a setting where employees feel comfortable asking questions, seeking feedback, brainstorming ideas, etc.
"I have an open door policy. … You just want to spitball, let's go in the sideboard with the whiteboard and let's do that," he said. "And by the way, when you're doing that, there's no judgment because a big part of this is around motivating employees. No one wants to look stupid in front of their boss, right? People judge each other, right? Probably too much. Create that safe environment because the easiest way you can squash all of that is to demotivate people."
Because leadership is a contact sport, Clyde also admitted that every now and then, "you get a little jar to the jaw." When mistakes are made, something is missed or performance isn't meeting expectations, great leaders learn quickly and demonstrate adaptability, he noted.
"My chairman's dad has this great saying: There's no education in the second kick of a mule. When you make a mistake, don't repeat it, understand the basis of it," he said. "Get feedback from your team. You got to have team members who are willing to hold the mirror up to you as well.
"Our job as leaders is to try to diagnose [issues], get to the heart of 'em, so we can fix it. Be relentless in seeking the truth," Clyde implored. "Get to the heart of every issue because if you don't have a shared view with your team about what the problem is, you're never going to have a shared view of what the recommendation is."