What will it take to be a successful leader in the next decade and beyond? This is the gist of our new book Leading the Way, recently published by Pearson FT. It was also the focus for a recent think tank bringing together a group of young people already marked out by their companies as potential leaders.
In a well-attended, stimulating and thought provoking event, 22 talented individuals all under the age of thirty came together at Maynard Leigh to apply their minds to this issue.
The young Execs represented a wide range of organisations, including Ernst and Young, Microsoft, Visa, Ocado, ED &F Man, McLaren, SAP, Cancer Research UK, DHL and Crash. These bright minds enthusiastically applied their best thinking to issues such as:
- How will attitudes to leadership change in the next decade?
- What are the forces influencing change in leadership styles?
- What’s the point of leaders anyway?
In several discussion groups, each facilitated by a Maynard Leigh consultant, the first important conclusion concerned the major trends facing the next generation of leaders:
Globalisation—the impact of international working, including the shift from West to East, time differences and the effects on working hours and virtual working, and business moving on line which links to the ever enlarging impact of…
Technology—the implications of less face-to-face time, more flexible working patterns, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to the office,. Also, the growth of social media means people are more likely to trust on-line customer views than formalised branding.
Education—there was a questioning around the relevance of education and the value or not of degrees
Other issues arising were: Transparency and ethics; Changing demographics; Ecology and Sustainability.
WHAT LEADERS NEED
With these trends making themselves felt already, the young leaders also explored what future leaders will need to succeed, and predictably their views varied widely and there was not complete consensus.
In particular, one group highlighted the importance of future leaders being able to demonstrate credibility through knowing the business and being able to be authentic about it. Another group stressed the need for tomorrow’s leaders to hold the vision for the company and making themselves visible in an increasingly virtual world.
At least one group drew attention to the importance of future leaders having strong relationship skills. And because there is simply too much to know, tomorrow’s leaders must be willing to give away accountability to others.
Interestingly, these young leaders recognised what the literature and commentary on contemporary leadership often mentions, namely the importance of being comfortable with paradox and not having to resolve every issue into black and white solutions.
As you might expect, these young leaders found it tricky to project themselves forward ten years. They were mainly speaking from their current, albeit limited experience.
Encouragingly, these buoyant young people threw themselves into the discussions with an openness that was inspiring. There was an absence of competitiveness, far more a sense of genuine desire to learn and collaborate.
The whole event was a buzzy experience of energy and engaged conversation. We are currently considering how to offer the group something of value in the future and to continue our shared exploration of the nature of tomorrow’s leadership.