When it comes to the future of leadership, some of the most important skills to have are actually the ones that have been around the longest.

I interviewed more than 140 CEOs for my book, The Future Leader, and asked what skills and mindsets leaders will need to succeed in 2030. Some of their top answers were listening and communication. Together, I call these the skill of the translator: the ability to translate noise and messages into actionable communication. Although the skills of listening and communication are timeless, they have never been more important than they are now. With new technology, globally distributed teams, and an increased focus on purpose and meaning, being a translator is more important than ever.


Most people hear during a conversation, but how many of them actually listen? If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who you could tell wasn’t really paying attention or who was distracted by their phone or something happening nearby, you know how this feels.

Hearing is the unconscious act of letting sound enter your ear. Listening is purposeful and involves actually paying attention to what someone is saying. It’s been said that listening is the greatest form of love and respect, and this is especially true from leaders. When your employees know you are really listening, they feel seen and valued.

Practice active listening by putting away technology and distractions, having respectful body language, and involving yourself in the conversation to let people know you are truly listening.


It used to be that when people wanted to send a message, they only had a few options—sending a memo, making a phone call, or visiting someone in person. But that’s far from the case today, when we have everything from texting to emojis, VR, and Slack messages.

One of the most important parts of modern communication is understanding the available channels and using the right channel to send the right message. If you have an involved follow-up question, don’t send it in a massive text. If you have personal feedback for someone, it’s probably best to do it in person.

Communication will become even more important in the future as leaders have to fight against more noise. Successful leaders know how to get their messages across, even with all of the distractions and surrounding noise. With a limited amount of time with people, leaders have to make every moment and chance for communication count.

Future leaders must have the skill of the translator. They need to use their strong listening and communication skills to build bridges between people and get their messages across. How well you can practice these skills can directly impact your success as a leader.

If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

  1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
  2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.
  3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here.