The Future Leader

9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade

Jacob Morgan
Rating: 9.0

“Today’s – and tomorrow’s – leaders must be comfortable with discomfort: they must be courageous enough to experiment, fail, and experiment again. Jacob’s work is the guidebook to doing just that.”
-Ritch Allison, CEO, Domino’s Pizza

Prepare now for the trends in corporate social responsibility, technology and globalization that will shape leadership’s future.

Bad leaders damage employees’ job satisfaction and their mental and physical health. Companies must examine their practices to determine if they have the right “filters” to identify and develop high-quality leaders who can meet their future needs. Good leaders have a huge impact on employee retention, engagement, productivity and profits. However, a 2018 poll indicated that only 19% of employees see their managers as mentors. Worldwide, nearly three-quarters of millennials expect to leave jobs because their employers don’t nurture their leadership potential.

“Perception is reality, so if employees are saying that their organizations are not ready for the future of leadership, then they aren’t ready, regardless of how optimistic the CEO might be.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies will shape leadership’s future. Sophisticated AI should free human beings from repetitive, uncreative drudgery – leaving leaders the challenge of putting people to work in jobs that are worth doing. Automation should not replace human beings; rather, it should empower them to solve problems. Once computers are performing the analytic grunt work behind decision-making, leaders’ people skills will be even more valuable.

The rapid pace of technological change will continue to accelerate. Dell projects that 85% of the jobs that will be available in 2030 don’t yet exist. Future leaders must be comfortable with experimentation and uncertainty, open to employees’ ideas and solutions, and willing to jettison past practices and embrace new policies. Millennials, who will be 75% of the 2030 workforce, seek employers with high ethical standards. A whopping 90% of potential employees want transparent leaders. And, consumers are overwhelmingly more loyal to transparent businesses.

Employees prioritize purpose and meaning. Workers who find their jobs meaningful are more productive and stay longer. Nine out of 10 employees will forgo a pay hike to gain more meaningful work. Leaders need to understand the values that drive employees and to show how the company’s story aligns with those values.

“Reskilling and upskilling your workforce isn’t just something to do because it makes business sense, but because it shows just what kind of a leader you are and that you’re willing to look after your people.”

Corporations will face 83 million unfilled positions by 2030 due to a global shortage of skilled workers. Firms must continually “upskill” and retrain their workers in technical skills and “soft” interpersonal skills. Prepare them to join diverse, inclusive teams, which perform better than other teams and which fit the modern worker’s preferences. Increasing globalization means leaders must interact with, learn from and communicate with workers and customers from myriad cultures.

To “futurize” and “humanize” your firm, cultivate “Nine Notable Mind-sets and Skills.”

Futurizing means leading an organization into the future by emphasizing long-term over short-term thinking, keeping pace with and adapting to technological change, and letting go of “the way things are done” so you can embrace new approaches. Short-term goals like quarterly earnings don’t inspire the kind of thinking that will solve future challenges. An environment of rapid change and uncertainty is the new normal, and leaders must accept and adapt to it.

Humanizing means prioritizing diversity, enhancing employees’ skills and training, recruiting great talent, and contributing to the social good. It also means putting people first at work, in the community and in the world. Surround yourself with people you can learn from, those who have strengths where you are weak and challenge your thinking. Put yourself in new environments, meet new people and cultivate fresh perspectives. As you guide to others, let them guide you as well.

These mind-sets…are crucial for your success as a leader and at scale for the grander success of your organization.”

To become a future leader, adopt four mind-sets (“Explorer, Chef, Servant” and “Global Citizen”) and learn five skills (“Coach, Futurist, Technology Teenager, Translator” and “Yoda”). Here’s how:

Mind-set 1

The Explorer, gives leaders curiosity and adaptability.

Explorers are curious and open-minded. They learn constantly and adapt nimbly to new circumstances. Curiosity entails a willingness to take chances and make mistakes. Curious people are much more likely to innovate. Curious leaders tolerate the discomforts of unfamiliar and uncertain paths. But, focusing on short-term results and predictability inhibits curiosity.

“Curiosity is like the fountain of youth when it comes to effective leadership.” (Bradley Jacobs, CEO, XPO Logistics)

Companies that explicitly encourage their employees to experiment and pursue their interests cultivate the Explorer mind-set. The Explorer’s role is to ask questions, challenge business-as-usual, and support and celebrate others who do the same. Give yourself and others ample downtime to ponder and wonder. Pay attention to the long-term time frame. Commit to continual learning and personal growth. Enjoy learning from people who are not like you, and relish the opportunity to take risks and learn from your mistakes.

Mind-set 2

The “Chef,” finds a tasty balance between a firm’s human and technological needs (“HumanIT”).

The human side of work centers around meaning, workers’ well-being, productive relationships and a positive employee experience. The IT side focuses on tools, software, hardware, AI and automation – everything technical that improves efficiency, cost control and data management. 

“View technology as a partner for humans, not a replacement for them…Technology doesn’t control you – you control it.”

The Chef mind-set mixes human and IT elements to achieve the best outcome. Chefs neither fear technology nor allow it to dominate at people’s expense. They use tech to improve people’s lives and make the organization more humane. The Chef cooks up a deliciously meaningful, purpose-driven workplace where people contribute their best. A Chef looks beyond the firm to its role in the wider community, constantly tasting to see that the balance is right by soliciting stakeholders’ feedback. The Chef is always in “the kitchen” with line workers and welcomes accountability for the meals that result.

Mind-set 3

The Servant, supports other leaders, teams, clients, and him- or herself.

In healthy organizations, the Servant mind-set is pervasive. Everyone serves everyone else, without limits of rank or role. Serving your leaders means solving problems for them and making their jobs easier. Serving your team means lifting teammates to greater success and creating other leaders. Serving your team doesn’t end at the office. Help people beyond the workplace. Serving customers involves creating experiences, not only products, and putting the customer at the center of your culture. Serving yourself entails mindful self-care that enables you to be an effective servant-leader.

“The servant mind-set isn’t just about creating a better organization; it’s about creating a better society and a better world.”

Servant-leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses, and appreciate others’ abilities and contributions. This mind-set embraces humility and vulnerability. Let others see you as human, with emotions, strengths and failings. To build the Servant mind-set, take small actions daily to support your leaders, team, customers and yourself.

Mind-set 4

The “Global Citizen,” embraces varied experiences, cultures and perspectives.

The Global Citizen mindset is open to the full range of human diversity in culture, religion, ethnicity, race, ideas, and sexual orientations. Insist on having diverse teams. This openness builds understanding, and attracts and leads employees around the world.

You will “work with, communicate, collaborate and lead individuals who don’t think like you, look like you, act like you or believe in the same things that you believe.”

Cultivate the Global Citizen mindset by getting out into the world. Travel when you can. Immerse yourself in unfamiliar cultures and environments to learn to lead from different perspectives.

Skill 1

The “Futurist,” prepares a firm by investigating scenarios and planning for many possibilities.

Today, no one single, inevitable future is going to occur. Exploring the “cone of possibilities” – including scenarios that are desirable, likely, or possible but unlikely – helps you to anticipate factors that may influence the outcome. The future is yours to bring about through wise leadership.

“Purpose and meaning should not be a privilege at work; it should be a right for any employee at any level.”

As a Futurist, handle important choices by asking these questions: Why might this occur or not occur? What else might take place? What outcome do I want and how can I promote that result? What other factors could intervene?

Skill 2

The Yoda uses emotional intelligence to create an environment of collaboration and psychological safety.

Motivation and social skills are components of emotional intelligence, along with empathy, which helps you interact constructively, and self-awareness, which helps you regulate your emotions and understand how others see you. Self-awareness correlates with success.

“Your self-awareness will set the upper limit for all…the skills that are important…in the 21st century.”

Dr. Tasha Eurich

Leaders with Yoda skills are great listeners. They lead with “how” and “why” questions rather than orders. They include team members in decision-making and acknowledge their contributions, handle conflict openly and calmly, and foster enthusiasm and commitment. Cultivate empathy by imagining yourself in others’ shoes, listening not judging and actively acknowledging that other people’s emotions are similar to yours. Pause after listening before acting or responding. Note the specific causes of your emotional reactions and develop plans to manage them when they arise. Solicit candid feedback, and create a safe context for people to share their views.

Skill 3

The Translator listens and communicates effectively, aligning, and connecting everyone in an organization.

“Communication is leadership.” Listening is the key to understanding employees, customers, competitors and the world at large. Listening means not just hearing, but purposefully seeking to understand. The higher you are in the hierarchy, the greater the distance us between you and most employees. Listening bridges the gap. Create a safe environment so everyone feels empowered to speak candidly to you.

“Practicing consistent, reliable, effective, thoughtful, predictable, compassionate, and courteous communication every single day is essential.”

Melissa Reiff, CEO, The Container Store

Communication makes it possible for a group to coalesce around a plan. Different channels of communication require different techniques and suit different audiences. Learn the basics of listening and communicating: Make eye contact, don’t interrupt, and use body language and verbal cues to show you’re paying attention. Show that you understand the speaker’s feelings. Ask constructive questions that encourage insight and discovery, but don’t take over the conversation. Establish a flow of give and take. Gently offer suggestions and alternatives. Stay alert to how your audience receives your message.

Skill 4

The Coach, motivates, engages, inspires and teaches.

To motivate people, the Coach – as a change agent – determines what they value most and finds a way to offer it. A coach inspires and engages people in a variety of ways, including close collaboration, creative thinking and emotional connection. Employee engagement is the result of positive workplace experiences in technology, physical space and corporate culture.

“One of the most important things a leader can do is actually to create other leaders.”

The future of a business depends on how it acts now to make sure it has the right leadership later. As a coach, your greatest responsibility and privilege is to help others go farther than you have. Build relationships with your co-workers based on a connection beyond your business roles. Learn what they care about and what distresses them, and what their family lives are like. Discover their strengths and weaknesses, their aspirations and personal passions. “Centeredness” – the ability to be fully and mindfully present – is the inspirational leader’s most important trait.

Skill 5

The Technology Teenager, engages fearlessly and playfully with technology.

Technology is ubiquitous and critical to business success. But leaders needn’t know every detail of how it works – the important skill is to understand the impact that current and emerging technologies will have on your business. New tech doesn’t intimidate Technology Teenagers. They jump right in, and start experimenting enthusiastically to see what they can do.

“You can’t control the speed of technology, but you can control your mind-set and your response.”

Determine which new tools hold the most promise for your business. Gather a posse of tech gurus with greater proficiency than yours, and ask them to coach you. Being a constant learner keeps leaders plugged in and connected.

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