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Paul Corke


Leadership Development Manager

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What will leadership look like in the future?


We face ever increasing levels of exponential change in the future. We will need to keep pace with changes in technology and expectations of living in an advanced digital world where it will take less to do more.

What global trends will change the leadership needed at work?

Jobs will change as technology starts to take over key roles that can easily be done by robots, bots and digital infrastructure. With this also comes a younger, much more tech-savvy generation who will be intuitive to the technology around them. There will be new types of jobs that will require new types of skills.

Undoubtedly existing skills will become increasingly redundant, and leaders will have to navigate the expectations of their people based on this new landscape of demand and supply of inter-changeable skills.

Driverless cars will give us more time to work, to and from the office, although there will be less need to be in the office. When in the office workers will work in shared campuses that promote wellness, cater to retail needs, and have integrated smart technology where hot desking is the norm.

As the population increases we will see shifts in people demographics, which will put pressure on energy resources to support the growing population. This will increase tensions between the power houses of nuclear arms where we can only hope a conglomerate of big players police the world to keep the peace.

We will live longer, as scientists break the genetic code for ageing, putting even more pressure on a world of limited resources, and our human parts will be replaceable by advances in medicine. We will benefit from Artificial Intelligence but also be concerned about a doomsday scenario where robots threaten mankind because of their advanced intelligence.

As always in a future world of ever changing demands new leadership will be required to ensure we continue to survive.

The great leaders of the future will be the best facilitators in a virtual world

They will connect people and ideas instead of telling people what to do and how they should be working. Future generations of employees will expect to be treated like leaders. They will want trust, autonomy and independence.

Command and control leadership will be seen less and will eventually be phased out by natural selection as new generations have a style of leadership that is a product of how they see the world.

This style will be empowering in a fast paced working environment. This will not happen overnight, and the new generation of leaders will be better educated at an early age to understand that to get the most from people you need to treat them like leaders who can be trusted, as positive psychology becomes more embedded in our everyday lives.

The lesson here is if you continue with a directive and controlling style of leadership, just like the dinosaurs were eventually replaced by the evolution of more adaptable life forms, so will the leaders who cling to old styles of leadership and by future generations who see leadership for what it is.

As more people who work will have flexible work arrangements this will see increased home working so the dynamic itself will create an autonomous workforce which requires leaders who excel in remote leadership.

The workforce demands will create new jobs where interchangeable skills will be required, and workers will need to demonstrate a high level of learning agility. Leaders will not be able to exert power through position or expertise as the need to know everything diminishes.

This means the ability to bring out the best in their people, working ‘with’ them as opposed to ‘for’ them will be critical to their success as a leader.

A move away from static competency models

This push on leadership autonomy across the workplace will see a move away from static competency models to new models of leadership based on leadership success factors.

These success factors will focus on what good looks like, to bring the best talent into the organisation, and also develop existing talent and leaders.

The move away from the ‘checking of competence’ to one of ‘trust and empowerment’ will be a shift across all organisations, along with a move away from ‘performance measurement’ to focusing on the ‘whole person’ and how they add value to the organisation.

This will be reflected in no longer needing out of date competencies, with a focus on what success looks like across the organisation along with an understanding of what the talent of the future is that is required today.

Leadership success factors will spread across organisations where individuals will understand what success means and associate with what good looks like, with the freedom to express themselves through these success factors. Leaders therefore will need to be leadership success factor role models.

These will be defined by each company with key commonalities such as Emotional Intelligence, Learning Agility, Strategic Thinking and Resilience as examples of key success factors for leaders. 

Increasing importance will be placed on neuroleadership and understanding humans

Leaders will be educated to understand the human brain along with the importance of the mind body connection through neuroleadership. Advances in science will provide answers to the workings of the brain so leaders will be informed ‘why’ people act the way they do.

As positive psychology takes a greater foothold in the workplace, leaders will cultivate the mindset of their people with the understanding if you get the mindset right the behaviours will follow. This will be about a mindset of purpose and agency, where their people as leaders will know why they are here and what their unique purpose in working for the organisation is.

There will be less of a hierarchical approach with the need to be part of the collaborated and connected workplace hive rather than part of a hierarchical top down structure of coercive power. And through the hive opportunity will be available for leaders who stand out, which will positively impact their progression and who normally might not have been noticed so therefore providing greater opportunities to all.

A direct link to the key skills you need?

In the future it is possible that key skills will be able to be downloaded directly to the brain so individuals will already be competent so it will be about positively stretching their skills.

Leaders will therefore focus on strengths-based development. They will provide special attention to their people which will ensure their people are motivated, engaged and enthused about the work and job they do.

Focusing on how to develop the potential of their people, conversations will move to it being about how the employee can be their absolute best, and help them to develop ideas in the workplace as opposed to getting them to work hard to hit performance targets.

Leaders will understand the importance of the whole person paradigm and nurture their people’s potential as opposed to giving instructions and ensuring their team members have to wait to be told what to do.

Leaders will inspire not through teaching but with their knowledge of how to provide the right experiences, resources, and challenges for their people. Once again it will be about ensuring their leaders are empowered and enabled to lead the way, focusing on positive and strengths based development.

The age of the ‘all-knowing leader’ will end

Leaders will ask questions and not search for answers or need to know everything. We have all been educated to search for the right answer to questions or problems, and this has impacted our creativity as we lose our imaginative nature because there has to be one correct answer. Logic teaches us this.

Organisations are also set up to do the right thing and to look for answers: in some cases this can create blame cultures when something goes wrong. Conformity also means that it can be painful to stand out and be different.

But with technological advances answers are becoming a commodity as we can search the internet and use Google to find answers to almost anything with ease. In the future successful leaders will be those who know how to ask the right questions and also know where or who to get their answers from.

They will not know everything and their credibility will not be about only their expertise but their ability to think differently, ask meaningful questions, and bring the right people or knowledge together at the right time.

Human v digital: balance of the future?

Leaders must stay human in a digital world. Being authentic will be a key recruitment driver with new ways to assess people’s integrity, personality traits and intentions. Who a person is will be equally as important as what a person can do with brain imaging tests and stress testing for the critical jobs in the organisation.

As we see a world of robots and digital infrastructure take over the workplace it will never be more important to be genuinely human in dealing with customers along with every day colleagues. This will be due to the ambiguous nature of customer service interactions, which require a human, not a robot.

How to be human will become a science in itself as robots are programmed to become more and more human like. As AI starts to integrate with every part of our life, it will become more difficult to differentiate between who is human and who is robot.

Disruption is the new normal

Leaders will be expected to develop a culture of innovation and support their ‘leaders’ with disruption to help them make deep and meaningful connections through creativity, critical thinking and learning agility. Being resilient and agile will be key in a volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous (VUCA) environment which will only continue to unprecedented levels with rapid speed of innovation and change in the world.

As we can see the world and technology will change in the future as our lives will be transformed. We naturally prefer to be in control of our own destiny but the changes that are happening will disrupt and transform our lives anyway. So it is better to be onside with change than fighting against it. Due to the speed of innovation across the world the future is changing every day.

In the short term we will still see the continuation of command and control style leadership in the workplace but as with changes in the world, leadership will change potentially beyond recognition as new generations in the future shape the world of tomorrow.

If you want to get ahead of the game now, empower your people, lead with trust, ask meaningful questions, and help to connect ideas. Treat your people like leaders and tomorrow’s future will come closer every day. 

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Paul Corke

Leadership Development Manager

Read more from Paul Corke