Leadership has always been challenging, but the future of work will bring fresh challenges to future leaders. Over the next decade, leaders will have to face obstacles and challenges not faced by current or past leaders. But what are those challenges? As part of the research for my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 top CEOs from around the world and surveyed more than 14,000 LinkedIn users. One of the questions I asked was about the challenges future leaders would face. From their varied and insightful responses, I broke the challenges down to two main areas: futurize and humanize.
Future leaders can’t afford to lead their organizations by looking in the rearview mirror. They need to futurize, or bring their organizations into the future. But of course, it isn’t that simple. There are numerous challenges that fall into this category.
Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Thinking
Many leaders think quarter by quarter to please their shareholders and investors. We’ve been conditioned to think in the short term and expect fast results. Future leaders need to be focused on long-term success for both the organization and the people.
Adapting to Technology
New technology is coming incredibly quickly, and it often seems like once we’ve finally mastered something, it’s outdated and there’s a flashy new solution. Leaders need to pay attention to technology and be able to change their perspective to understand what new developments are most important and what else is coming down the pipeline.
“Today’s leaders need to either decide to embrace new platforms and technology or be prepared to be left behind.” John Legere, Former CEO, T-Mobile
Keeping Up With the Pace of Change
The world is changing incredibly fast, and future leaders will be challenged to keep up. They need to embrace change, stay agile, and be open to new ideas.
“The pace of change is faster and while you don’t have to know everything, you do have to know how to get it. The commitment to being a life long learner, I think the premium on that is much higher now for our leaders.” William Rogers, CEO, SunTrust Banks
Moving Away from the Status Quo
Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will still work in the future. Leaders need to be confident and bold to take risks that move away from the status quo just because that’s how things have always been done.
We tend to put a lot of emphasis on future technology, but a company can work without technology; it can’t work without people. The challenges of humanizing involve balancing humans with technology and ensuring your people are prepared to succeed in the future.
Leading Diverse Teams
Not everyone in the world looks and thinks the same, and your organization should reflect that. Diverse teams bring in new perspectives. Future leaders need to put together teams of people with different backgrounds, genders, races, sexual orientations, and belief systems to work together towards a common goal.
“One mark of a future leader should be the ability to work alongside people of different ages and with different backgrounds.” Sébastien Bazin, CEO, Accor Hotels
Attracting and Retaining Top Talent
People are an organization’s biggest asset, but many companies face the challenge of finding and keeping great employees. Instead of job candidates trying to convince organizations they are the best choice, now leaders and organizations must convince potential employees they are a great place to work.
“We’re moving from an era of lifetime employment to lifetime employee ability where if your people don’t feel that they learn and progress and they’re up to speed in their areas of expertise, they will leave you because they will become themselves obsolete. We have to admit that we are not bringing in the company people with a perspective that we had 20 years ago, 10 years ago that people will stay there forever.” — André Calantzopoulos, CEO, Philip Morris International
Reskilling and Upskilling Employees
How we work and the tools we have are changing rapidly, and many employees find themselves not having the right skills to do their jobs or thrive in the future. Leaders face the challenge of knowing how best to upskill employees and give them what they need for future success.
People want to be part of organizations that care about more than just making money. But in many cases, the leaders and shareholders are conditioned to think more about profits than doing good in the world. Future leaders need to make sure their work is improving the world and then share that message with others.
Making the Organization Human
With automation and a focus on efficiency, many organizations fall into the trap of focusing on results instead of people. Each individual matters, and future leaders need to understand their employees as people, not just cogs in the machine.
“A leader of the future will have to be astute enough to balance automation with the human touch. They have to decide what types of tasks to automate so that they can spend more time on high-value activities. But also decide which businesses will continue to benefit from human judgment.” — Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson, of Biocon
These challenges are widespread and require serious effort. Based on the LinkedIn survey, most leaders and organizations aren’t ready to face these challenges. The good news is that we still have time, but we need to start now to develop future-ready skills and mindsets.
140 of the world’s top CEOs identified a specific set of 9 skills & mindsets that are crucial for leaders to master. Learn what they are and hear directly from these leaders by downloading the PDF below.
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