The Future of Leadership
Businesses have changed a great deal over the years, with previous structures and conventions often being discarded for new and better approaches. In the area of leadership, the businessperson of today is usually quite different from the authoritarian of the past. Still, some of the most recent advances in leadership skills and leadership development have yet to be fully integrated at some companies. Looking into the future, companies that fail to turn its managers into leaders and build bench strength will have a hard time competing in the marketplace.
Leadership Requirements Will Change
As the global business environment evolves, the leadership skills the company's leaders must have will also evolve. Because the economy is becoming ever more global in scope and information (the lifeblood of any businesses) is exchanged at a progressively faster rate, businesses will need leaders who can rapidly adapt to change and who can assemble skilled and reliable teams suited to each situation.
The authoritarian leader who makes all the decisions will become a thing of the past. Instead of an entirely top down approach, the leader of the future will have to use a more collaborative approach. This will involve things like brainstorming sessions with employees and multidiscipline teams to address problems and create a long-term vision. This approach will allow leaders to get the maximum use out of the company’s most valuable resource - its people.
To meet these requirements leaders in the near future will have to possess a wide array of leadership skills. They must have the ability to manage change (rather than resisting it) so it works to the benefit of the company and not against it. They must also be skilled at relationship building and developing the abilities and latent talents of the people that work with them.
Leaders in the future will have to be skilled at creating plans for their business that take into account the global nature of the marketplace. Aside from the need to understand that competition is no longer limited to national boundaries, leaders will have to have a detailed understanding of the impact that national and internationals regulations can have, as well as the effect of local politics and media.
For any market into which a business leader wants to introduce the company’s products or services, they must understand the local markets and competition, as well as any local customs that might impact the company. It is up to the senior leaders to make sure the company presents its best face in all its interactions by developing a wide and deep bench strength of leaders at all levels.
As can readily be seen today, the Internet is a major force in marketing and sales, and can be expected to become even more dominate in the future as consumers look for the best bargains they can find, regardless of whether they get them from a brick and mortar establishment or online.
A key part of leadership in the future is keeping abreast of the most current changes in technology, product and/or service delivery, social media, and inbound marketing so that a business can be at the crest of the wave instead of trailing behind others. Companies that can quickly adapt to changes in this area will thrive and grow, taking market share from those companies that do not quickly embrace change.
The reason why a strong sense of ethical behavior will be required in future leaders is more than just moral and doing the right thing. Companies live and die by their reputation, so a leader who damages the reputation of the company through questionable business practices is harming the long-term bottom line of the business. Greater transparency is coming whether we like it or not. There have been a number of scandals in recent years related to unethical and (occasionally) criminal business practices by executives at some of the largest companies in the world. As a result, there is likely to be a greater emphasis in the future on the need for leaders to possess a fair measure of integrity, particularly in their business dealings.
Results to Resources Ratio
Another important part of leadership development in the future is that the costs involved in building leadership skills must be justifiable on a person by person basis. This means that the company will weigh the monies spent to develop a leader against the return that the company gets from that training. Leaders who cannot demonstrate to the company that their contributions to the company are worth the resources invested in them will not be in a position of leadership for long. Performance will trump any and all other considerations.
Business leaders of the future will have many of the best qualities of today’s leaders, but they will also have other leadership skills that are rarer today. These skills and abilities will allow the leader of tomorrow to adapt to a business environment in a constant state of flux and position the company so it can prosper.
It's Your Turn
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Looking to the Future image courtesy of NYU