Earlier this year I took on a new role – leading SAP’s Premier Customer Network. Now, I have been working with SAP since 2004 and have taken on some challenging roles, but there was something particularly interesting about this opportunity. And while I could not quite articulate the attraction at first, some months into the role, it is certainly becoming clearer.
If you take a look at the blogs I read and the topics I write about, they are clearly focused around the topic of leadership. But I have restricted this focus on what it means personally, to be a leader. I have written about how we become leaders, what we can (and sometimes cannot) do as leaders and the role of communication, teamwork and how to manage the “work-life balance.” And now my new role, my new focus is taking me in a slightly different direction – I’m fascinated by the idea of Customer Leadership.
Customer Leadership is like a business tango – relying on passion and commitment to the dance – but still allowing the participants to go on to separate lives once the music ends. It’s living and giving 110% in the moment, but also being willing to walk away at the drop of a hat when the balance of power shifts too much to one side. In this way, Customer Leadership only exists when there is participation by the business and the customer – in some form of balance.
As Head of SAP’s Premier Customer Network for North America, my role is to help our organization hear the music of the dance. I’m no longer calling the tune, but responding to the shifting needs of our customers, and the changing business conditions that are transforming the economy before my eyes. I am also making introductions, connecting individuals, business units and teams. I’m not talking the talk or walking the walk – I’m tripping the light fantastic, showcasing innovative leaders not just from my business but from within this network of customers. It’s very much a process of reinvention – not just for me and my team, but for our customers as well. Finding a new way ahead together is proving, for me at least, one of the most exciting times of my career. And while it’s early days, we’re all focused on and beginning to see, serious results.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of this journey with you.
Nina Nets it Out: Customer Leadership is a far more delicate process than corporate leadership. It comes down to relationships, to benefits and to value – all the hard to measure intangibles of the business world. But I am convinced this is a true future of business.