The Future of Leadership

At our annual conference earlier this year, we spent time discussing the 4th Industrial Revolution and how we felt about being a part of it and the fundamental change it’s going to have in the way we work, live and relate. The feelings and emotions ranged from excited, anticipation through to fear and trepidation. Dealing with the unknown, uncertain and complex can affect and impact in many ways – individuals wellbeing and performance, engagement levels, loyalty and anxiety as well as the potential to destabilise and infect organisations themselves. If anything is certain about the future, it is that we will be challenged and excited by engagement with it in equal measure. 

Salim Ismail, Co-founder of EXO Works says this; “The speed of current technological breakthroughs has no historical precedent. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will disrupt virtually every industry in every country. Exponential technologies are creating tremendous possibilities and opportunities for innovative organisations.”

Many people are busy researching and writing about the challenges and opportunities of the future and there are many ways to describe the coming landscape, be it relentless change and transformation; globalisation, technology and digitalisation; hollowing out and uberisation. The list is endless, and these are not separate entities that can be addressed in isolation. They are connected in a complex web, where each one drives and is being driven by the others. 

Is our current thinking sufficient to thrive in the Tsunami that is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?  How prepared are you? Will you sink, swim or splash around looking for a life raft? Where do we start? 

At VA, we are motivated by a big “why” of ‘creating people powered organisations that change the way the world does business. Our approach to this is systemic, human and collective. We are honest enough to acknowledge that our skills, knowledge and experience in organisation development is partial and we believe that the way forward, with the necessary speed and agility, can only be found in collaboration. The following quote resonates strongly for us.

“Leadership is becoming less about being the smartest in the room and much more about how we collaborate, work with diverse stakeholders, inspire and bring the best out of others. Being more inclusive and collaborative. It’s about developing our ability to be curious; our ability to explore new approaches, new perspectives, engage different stakeholders and view points, and empathise with diverse perspectives.”  Interview with global HR director from Global Research Report by Henley Business School.

In a world where there are equal and opposite trends towards globalisation and de-globalisation, marked by current political and national strategies, leadership for us sits centre stage. What sort of leadership does the world need to navigate the future? And closer to home, what does leadership look like in the companies who are successful in the future? Whatever we mean by “success”! 

We are convinced that our current thinking on leadership development needs to adapt. And so we are hosting a meeting with a diverse group of people next week to begin to explore two questions:

·      What does leadership need to look like in the context of future organisational needs?

·      What are the implications for leaders and leadership development? 

So with all of this, what are you and your organisation doing now to develop a leadership culture suited to thriving and performing in a complex and emergent world? I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

I am excited to see what we come up with. I’ll keep you posted!

Written by Rob Kelly Chair/Director at VA.

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