The theme of this year’s Corporate Researchers Conference held October 16-18 in Dallas, Texas) was Moving You From Relevant to Indispensable.  Keynote speakers and breakout sessions all focused, through one lens or another, on what “today’s” Consumer Insights leaders must do to make the most meaningful contribution to their company’s success.

Of course no one would argue against the idea that it’s imperative we all continue to grow and evolve – it’s true in business and in life itself.  However, it seems that good business people have always known they must make worthwhile contributions in order to avoid becoming obsolete.  In September 1989, Harvard Business Review writers Noel Tichy and Ram Charan interviewed Jack Welch, then CEO of General Electric.  They asked Welch “what makes a good manager”?  Here was his answer:

I prefer the term “business leader.” Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. Above all else, though, good leaders are open. They go up, down, and around their organization to reach people. They don’t stick to the established channels. They’re informal. They’re straight with people. They make a religion out of being accessible. They never get bored telling their story.

Real communication takes countless hours of eyeball to eyeball, back and forth. It means more listening than talking. It’s not pronouncements on a videotape, it’s not announcements in a newspaper. It is human beings coming to see and accept things through a constant interactive process aimed at consensus. And it must be absolutely relentless. That’s a real challenge for us. There’s still not enough candor in this company.

Those words could have been uttered yesterday just as easily as almost 25 years ago (except, maybe, for the “videotape” reference).  While the specific challenges we face every day on the journey to becoming better business leaders are definitely different, the call for leadership has always been loud and strong.  And those who have learned to navigate the choppy waters, whatever form they take, are the ones who succeed both professionally and personally.

Let’s dive into those choppy waters, embrace all the new tools and resources we have, and find new ways to use them in service of doing well (driving organizational success) while doing good (giving our customers more of what they want).