Leaders of the future will need to grasp and master unprecedented complexities. There are 7 key traits that will differentiate between those leaders who can and those who can’t.
Today’s post is by thougthtLEADERS instructor Maureen Metcalf in conjunction with Susan Cannon, and Mike Morrow-Fox.
Current research on future trends indicates that increasing complexity, accelerating change, and near constant uncertainty is ahead. This level of challenge will most certainly exceed the capability of any nation or leader to manage it.
Historically, such times have catalyzed cultural evolution. As each new stage of human culture has emerged, the requirements of leadership have shifted accordingly. In the next 10-35 years, we expect a set of new and more complex challenges to emerge, bringing with them a new paradigm of technology and economy. This will require different leadership skills than in the past, we will refer to those skills as Strategist skills. Research shows that Strategist Leaders facilitate consistent, innovative, problem solving during times of times of stress and constraint.
The Wizard of Oz provides a rich metaphor emphasizing the intensity of change and the urgency of leadership that characterizes the next thirty-five years. With Dorothy on her bicycle, a Kansas storm provides the first antagonist of his drama. The sky darkens, the winds strengthen, and the world becomes an overwhelming, hostile milieu.
As we gaze forward, our barometer of change foretells meteorological twisters and technological tornados that will be forceful, formidable foes. Dorothy turns to The Great and Powerful Oz, leader of the Emerald City, who appeared to have situational control of his empire. However, when routine answers, distancing conventions, and dismissive formalities were challenged, his true limitations as a leader became apparent.
The smoke and mirrors that had so well served The Great and Powerful Oz are no match for complex problems demanding transformational answers. Our survey of the future shows that many of the upcoming challenges are as daunting as the return to Kansas from the Emerald City.
Just as Dorothy requested of Oz, our leaders will need substance over presentation, and ability as well as tools. Given the challenges before us, effective leaders in the near future and beyond will not just need to “KNOW” about innovation, sustainability, and inclusion; they will need to “BE” innovators, transformers, and coalition builders. Come the year 2050, none of us will be in a metaphorical Kansas anymore.
Much like Dorothy learning to make her way in the new world of Oz, as each new stage of change emerges, the needs for leadership shift accordingly. While already underway in small pockets, in the next 10-35 years, we expect this shift to grow in significance. This shift will require (and catalyze) what developmental researchers call “Strategist” leadership skills. Strategist Leaders facilitate consistent, innovative problem solving that endures during times of times of stress and constraint. They are roughly aligned with the Level 5 Leader referenced by Jim Collins in his best-selling business book Good to Great.
Strategist leaders are uniquely prepared to navigate the complexities of the coming global interconnected world and they are positioned NOW to drive better business results. In a study of CEOs, researchers David Rooke and William Torbert found that Strategists were found to have the greatest ability to create transformational results for their companies. These transformations included profitability, market share, and reputation over a four-year period.
There are seven skills that Strategist leaders consistently demonstrate:
1. Professionally humble – cares about getting “it” right over being right
2. Unwavering commitment to right action – unstoppable and unflappable when on a mission
3. 360 degree thinker – understands the level of complexity and works “on” the system
4. Intellectually versatile – develops interests beyond the immediate job and organization
5. Highly authentic and reflective – takes time to think and develop self, others and the organization
6. Inspires followership – connects with people at all levels of the organization and creates an inspirational shared vision
7. Innately collaborative – connects with people at all levels to create novel solutions to meet organization’s vision
Do you see competencies on this list that describe you? Do you see others that you aspire to develop but have not yet mastered?
To explore the question of what leadership looks like in 2050, you can read a more in-depth analysis when a full chapter is published by International Leadership Association in 2015.
Maureen is the President of Metcalf & Associates, Inc., bringing 26 years of business experience to the table as she helps professionals grow well beyond their own expectations. Her work is focused on helping leaders innovate how they lead while transforming their organizations. She’s also a member of the thoughtLEADERS team. Read more of her work on her blog.
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