“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
by Nicolien Timmer
Are you ready to be a leader in 2028?
We have no idea how the world really will be changing in the next 10 to 20 years but some changes in businesses, especially after the GFC, have been quite noticeable.
I don’t want to simplify leadership in the past, but reading how they wrote about leadership in the previous century – quite mechanical and situational – you could get by quite well with authority, inspiring fear (stick), using money incentives (carrot) and tell people what they needed to do. You may have needed to make some decisive decisions, which leaders made by using their past experience or analysing the current situation coupled with an understanding of where you needed to be and move forward. This won’t help you much in the future.
The problem with that is today, and probably even more in the future, is that change is happening so quickly and the future is so less predictable. The people you are managing are much more demanding and you probably manage multiple generations, all with different expectations. Money is not their main motivator and you can’t keep them with threat or authority. The work people do now is also much less routine – those tasks are now taken over by computers. There is a massive increase in the time workers spend focusing on people, solving strategic problems and thinking creatively. Managing these people is a different cup of tea!
You also don’t have as many resources available; we all have to do more with less, and on top of that, you probably have many more choices and possible resolutions and information overload!
Leaders are now expected to engage followers constantly, they need to analyse very complex situations with very uncertain scenarios, delegate, monitor, and motivate. It is a difficult job. The volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) will get worse in the future. Does this make leadership impossible? I believe it doesn’t need to be this complex!
What it requires is a new form of leadership. Not for the select few, but for everyone in a management or leadership position.
So what would this look like? Well, I envisage you to have daily, constructive conversations with your team. You aren’t the one to come up with the answers, you are the person to facilitate your followers to come up with possible solutions, ideas and explanations.
Doing this really well and consistently, your team will know what is expected of them, they will feel recognised for their work, their opinion will count and they work out many problems themselves. They will be solution focused and continue to learn and grow.
I don’t want to simplify the skill that it requires to have these kinds of conversations, they take learning, understanding, practice and a little bit of talent, but they can be learned!
What do you think? What will successful leadership look like in 2028?