The Future of Leadership

We live in the age of disruption and are facing ever increasing levels of change. So how will future leaders keep pace and adjust leadership style?

The great leaders of the future will be the best facilitators in our new commercial world. They will connect people and ideas instead of telling people what to do and how they should be working. Future generations of employees will expect to be treated like leaders. They will want trust, autonomy and independence.

The new generation of leaders will have a better understanding at an early age that to get the most from people you need to treat them like leaders who can be trusted, as positive psychology becomes more embedded in our everyday lives. They will have the ability to bring out the best in their people, working ‘with’ them as opposed to ‘for’ them, an ability critical to their success as a leader.

The Increasing Importance of Understanding Humans

– “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”, Simon Sinek

This principle can also be applied to leadership. At the recent Future of Leadership breakfast hosted by The Herald in association with CMS, significant emphasis was placed on understanding people, putting them first and focusing on their wellbeing. An area also touched upon was the concept of neuroleadership, an evolving concept and growing interest. The concept is that leaders of the future will be educated to understand the human brain along with the importance of the mind body connection. Advances in science will provide answers to the workings of the brain so leaders can better understand why people act the way they do.

As psychology takes a greater foothold in the workplace, leaders will cultivate the mindset of their people, understanding that if you get the mindset right the desired behaviours will follow. This will be about a mindset of purpose, where their people as leaders will know why they are here and what their unique purpose in working for the organisation is.

If humans can understand the “why” factor it will encourage opportunities and improve team morale. The human touch will always ensure relevance.

In this future model of leadership, there is a move away from the ‘checking of competence’ to one of trust and empowerment. We are already seeing a significant shift across many businesses and within the available talent pool towards this model.

The push on autonomy in leadership will see a move away from static competency models to new models of leadership based on success factors. These success factors will focus on identifying ‘what good looks like’, bringing the best talent into the organisation, and developing existing talent and leaders in order to mould the talent of the future!

What Skills are Required?

Advancing technology and new social expectations will mean that future leaders will be focused on developing and encouraging talent. Providing special attention to their people will ensure they are motivated, engaged, and enthused about the work they do.

Employee development will move towards encouraging and enabling the employee to become the best version of themselves, and help them to develop ideas, as opposed being KPI/target focussed.

Leaders will inspire not through telling but, through sharing experience to ensure their teams are empowered. Sharing their knowledge of how to provide the right experiences, resources, and challenges for their people.

The skills needed to drive this shift in leadership style are simple and are focused on softer skills, often described as people skills, again highlighting the importance of being ‘human’.

Successful leaders will be excellent communicators, encouraging two way communication and feedback. They will be emotionally intelligent in order to better respond to various situations involving people, they will be empathetic and take a genuine interest in their team make up and environment and finally, they will operate with the highest of integrity.

Staying Human

Future leaders must stay human in today’s commercial world. Being authentic will be a key driver for professionals when considering which business they choose to make a difference in.  This should also be applied when assessing people’s integrity, personality traits and “why factors” when undergoing various recruitment processes. Who a person is will be equally as important as what a person can do.

As the world of work becomes increasingly digitised, it becomes more important than ever to foster genuine human connections when dealing with your key stakeholders, especially your colleagues. As AI starts to integrate with every part of our life, in many online conversations it will become more difficult to differentiate between human and robot. Arguably, how to be human will become a science in itself – robots are trying to be like us!

What to Remember

In the short term the commercial world will continue much as it is today, and as such we will experience a continuation of the control style of leadership in the workplace.  However, leadership is on the cusp of great change, potentially beyond recognition as new and future generations shape the world of tomorrow.

Leaders will be expected to develop a culture of innovation and support their people with disruption to help them make meaningful connections. Being resilient and agile will be key in a volatile, uncertain and changing environment.

The lesson for all leaders of today and of the future is the importance of empowering people, leading with trust, understanding the “why”, and helping to connect ideas.


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