Radio Shack. Blockbuster. Sport Chalet. Just a few of the many sizable companies that have fallen from grace and filed for bankruptcy. While each faced a unique collection of circumstances, they all failed to adapt to significant trends reshaping their industries.

This is nothing new. It’s part of the capitalist system. However, due to technology, company lifespans companies are decreasing. S&P companies are no longer reaching their adult years, on average dying in their mid-teens.

How can credit unions beat the odds?

Most companies employ talented, committed and hard-working executives. But they also employ executives who are wrong in their reading of market trends, wrong in their understanding of customer needs and wrong about the threat of competition. There’s a lack of breakthrough thinking, of rethinking how to view the world or how to navigate the shifting waters of the competitive economy.

Credit unions can succeed in this challenging environment by encouraging and supporting breakthrough leadership. This is the only way to motivate and enable an organization to embrace change and embark on a journey to thrive in constantly changing circumstances.

What is breakthrough leadership?

Breakthrough leadership takes advantage of emerging opportunities that arise when technological, regulatory, socioeconomic or behavioral shifts occur. Breakthrough leadership aligns the business model to the opportunities opened up by one of these shifts. Breakthrough leadership is changing a company when nobody asks for change.

Great managers know what it takes to succeed today. They are good at protecting the organization and culture. Breakthrough leaders are guided by persuasive strategic insights. They are not invested in how a company achieved success in the past. The more successful the company has been in the past, the greater the adaption challenge. Ironically, growth and success are the most significant causes of failure – not incompetence or failure.

In startups, every employee breathes customer-centricity and purpose. This often fades when a company gets more successful, bigger and more complex. Meetings, processes and layers of management dilute the purpose. Executives spend more time with non-customer stakeholders, losing focus on customer-centricity and values. Breakthrough leaders continue to be the stewards of the values and beliefs that created success, and they know when to adapt to changing circumstances.

Ask yourself: Are you cherishing your purpose and impact enough? Or are you too focused on short-termism? Choose at your peril.