The Insured Retirement Industry’s annual Vision conference was prefaced on connecting some of the biggest and most influential players in the retirement income industry.  Mark King, president of Adidas Group North America and chairman of TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, has been recognized by the Insured Retirement Institute as a leader known for successfully navigating the ever-changing marketplace.

In a speech at the Vision meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia, the athletic-company exec drew parallels between the struggles of Adidas and those of the financial industry.

“The world we live in is very different that it was five years ago,” King said. With the changes the financial industry has gone through since the downturn of 2008, leaders and key players across the board should be able to adjust to change faster, he said.

Retail footwear for Adidas, the core of its revenue, has declined 24% this year. King says companies, including his, must commit to making real changes and listen to consumer needs and wants.

He said that retirement income advisors should follow suit. “We need to adapt to fast change,” King said, “and the question we should all ask ourselves is: are we as individuals able to change as the marketplace changes?”

King posed a few questions to the audience and addressed how leaders across the retirement industry should approach these hurdles.

How do I stay relevant as a business leader?

The biggest challenge business leaders face is staying relevant as the world goes forward, King said.  “We need to take the success that we have had in the past and move it forward and make sure what we do in the future is as meaningful and successful as it has been before,” he told the audience.

King addressed the fear that many people still have about the downturn of 2008. He says that everyone just sits in their chair and “hopes that 2008 doesn’t happen again” since it had a “large impact on retirement, regulation and how people looked at the future.”

Instead of hoping, adapting to change is necessary to stay relevant, since products, services and regulation are “constantly evolving.”

How is my organization transforming itself in the future?

According to King, the number one reason organizations have fast growth followed by a quick downturn is because their leaders run out of intellectual capital. “They’ve used up all of their experience, wisdom and knowledge, because all of that is from the past and it’s not what in the future,” King said.

And when you start making decisions about the future based on past experiences, it can be disastrous, he added.

The really great companies from 10 years are going to “change their leadership model.” It’s going to seem “daunting,” King added, but great leaders will have distributive leadership and not a “command and control” style.

How can I manage and channel creative employees?

Great companies are going to have leadership that fosters an environment of passion, creativity and initiative, King said.  

“These employees are going to come in and break all of the rules,” King said, “They’re going to be really hard to manage, and we’re not going to understand them.”

Companies might find it comfortable to manage the employee that’s easy, but the creative employee will be the one that changes the company, King said. 

Companies will have a completely different work force 20 years from now. “No matter how successful you are,” King said, “you’re going to have to change.”