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Leadership in the Future

By César Marrón - Cardinal Health
Director General


César Marrón By César Marrón | Director General - Wed, 02/02/2022 - 12:53

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The future will require leaders who are global citizens and able to work in a multicultural environment, who value talent and intellectual property and who embrace the need for constant digital transformation.

Future leaders will need to be innovative, collaborative and adaptive. They will also need to be both strategic and agile ("stragility") to build tomorrow’s talent. The future of leadership is diverse and anchored in what I like to refer to as Executive Leadership Presence, which I believe embodies inclusive leadership. 

Leaders increasingly will face challenges that have no solutions. Of course, they will have to make decisions anyway. For the next 10 years, leaders must be positive change agents in the midst of chaos, creating the future. 

Globalization and the significant changes taking place in the workforce will also influence leadership. The largest fraction of the new workforce are millennials, who embrace leaders who can move beyond goal-achievement and task functioning (competence, assertiveness, decisiveness) and give more attention to their capacity in maintaining relationships and social functioning (benevolence, trustworthiness, morality).

Uncertainty and complexity will be around their decisions from now on — and confusion will remain part of the mix. The next 10 years will be exceptionally volatile, with many make-or-break decisions to be made.

For that reason, I will review the skills needed to build the new leaders of our organizations. Further to developing the necessary skill set, great leadership requires individuals to be poised and calm under chaos while demonstrating humble confidence. In other words, being in control – not just having control. 

Charting a path toward the future of leadership requires environments, workplaces and societies that value and celebrate our differences and skills. To get there we need to be rethinking our learned behaviors and socialization to move beyond our biases and toward inclusion. 

10 Future Leadership Skills You Need

To survive, lead, and create the future, experts say that leaders must build and apply 10 future leadership skills:

  1. Maker instinct: The ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. How can you draw out your inner maker instinct and apply it to your leadership? Future leaders — working with others — will need both a can-do and a can-make spirit.
  2. Clarity:The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others can’t yet see. How can you communicate with clarity in confusing times, so you’re simple without being simplistic?
  3. Dilemma flipping;The ability to turn dilemmas into advantages and opportunities. How can you improve your skills at dilemma flipping so that you succeed with challenges that can’t be solved and won’t go away?
  4. Immersive learning ability:The ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments and to learn from them in a first-person way. Do you have what it takes to learn by immersing yourself in new physical and virtual worlds that will take you out of your comfort zone?
  5. Empathy:The ability to see things from nature’s point of view — to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns. Can you learn from nature and use that wisdom to inform your leadership?
  6. Constructive depolarizing:The ability to bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement. How can you calm and improve tense situations where people cannot agree?
  7. Quiet transparency:The ability to be open and authentic about what matters without being overly self-promoting. How do you lead so that you inspire credibility and trust?
  8. Rapid prototyping: The ability to create quick, early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures. How can you do rapid prototyping that allows you to fail early, fail often, and fail cheaply — while learning along the way?
  9. Smart mob organizing:The ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic or other media. How can you organize smart mobs using a range of media, choosing the best medium for each communication challenge?
  10. Commons creating:The ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit other players. How can you create settings within which both cooperation and competition may occur?

Moving beyond skills, what kind of leadership development or training can prepare us for the future? Leaders need to shore up the skills that are enduring with some statements

Empathy must become a more central approach in business leadership.

When you are a comprehensive and empathetic leader, the workspace opens up to new thoughts and perspectives.

Empathetic leaders are also more likely to view diversity and inclusion as a key part of a business’ success. In inclusion-focused workplaces, it is easier to acquire and retain talent, increase performance and innovation and boost employee engagement.

Empathic leadership uses a coaching mindset in a wellness environment.

It’s a coach’s job to identify a player’s talent and potential, and to work with them to bring it all out and move the team forward. Businesses must formulate work- and talent-based strategies around becoming an inclusive enterprise while developing a diverse culture that is open to new and innovative voices and candidates.

Prioritize the value of employee wellness. As well, employee wellness must be melded into core workforce strategies, similar to how new technology and new talent acquisition approaches have become key pieces of the Future of Work puzzle.

Executive leaders must cultivate an environment in which all workers, regardless of position, feel “physiologically safe.” As well, paid time off (PTO) policies need to be restructured to ensure that workers can take the time they need to maintain a healthy work/life balance while cultivating an ecosystem of “talent sustainability” that contributes to overall workforce agility.

Changing times require an evolution of the leadership role. The leader will become much closer with people and a more empathetic coach. The leader will consider important and empowered qualities as a human being that create important connections and informs the way he interacts with the environment, managing chaos and adversity to generate growth.

Photo by:   Cesar Marrón

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