One of the top concerns leaders and companies face is how to stay competitive. In the video interview series CEO Insights, we sit down with Finnish CEOs to discuss the key capabilities leaders and companies need, to stay competitive now and in the future. As we speak to top leaders from different industries about the future of business, leadership and strategy, we learn what has worked for them and what challenges they see that we’ll be facing in the future.
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Together with Leena Laitinen, the CEO of Alko, we jump straight into the discussion of leadership and strategic capabilities. Leena starts by emphasizing that it all starts with strategy, knowing your mission and competitive advantage. You simply need to know where you are going. The capabilities have to be aligned with your strategy, and the competitive advantage aligned with your mission. Furthermore, Leena brings up the importance of customer-centricity, the ability to learn and to be open to new ideas and open to the world we live in.
"You really need to know what the customer thinks and how the customer behaves. How his or her mind is changing and what he will need in the future."
Leena highlights the importance of company culture and explains that it has been something that she’s been extremely interested in throughout her career. At Alko, their strong mission and customer-centricity is something the Alko team is very proud of. Leena continues “our employees are very proud of our mission and that they can do something good in society”. Aligned with the mission, sustainability and responsibility are aspects Alko takes very seriously. It has been a core value of the Alko ever since it was established in 1932 and is still very much a part of the company today.
What is the biggest challenge for a new CEO?
“I really believe that you have to start by listening”, Leena says. By talking with the employees and travelling around the different stores at the start, Leena got a better picture of the company. After this, she could together with the management team and other people, start planning for the future.
"If you don't have trust, people just don't follow you."
When asking about what the important capabilities of people are, Leena mentions three factors; ability to learn, trust and curiosity. Leena highlights especially the trust factor and says that "nothing happens if you don't have trust. We are going to territories unknown and if you don't have trust people just don't follow you". Leena brings up learning from other businesses and companies and affirms that we should be curious about our world.
What are your thoughts on organisational development?
“Leadership is quite complicated but at the same time it’s very simple”, Leena says. “You have to be there when you are needed. The people have to have the feeling that you are there, and you are supporting your employees whatever happens”. Again, it is a question of trust, Leena concludes.