A fresh take on leadership for the 21st century

A fresh take on leadership for the 21st century

Ensuring individuals are fit for the future as leaders is as much about challenging notions of leadership in the past as it is acquiring new skills. Obviously, there are skills and behaviours that are increasingly important for modern leaders in the fast-paced world of business such as agility, adaptability, resilience, risk-taking and vision. But gearing up for future leadership roles also relies on individuals redefining leadership for themselves.

This demands some imagination and creative thought on the part of today’s leaders as well as analysis of the factors affecting organisations, such as digital transformation and the shift towards automated workforces.

According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2018, the human/machine division of labour as a share of hours was 71 per cent human/29 per cent machine in 2018 but this ratio will switch to 58:42 in 2022 and 48:52 in 2025. WEF also points out that 30 per cent of tasks in two-thirds (65 per cent) of jobs will be automated and by 2030, 15 per cent of the worldwide working population may be displaced.

Meanwhile, PWC’s 22nd Annual Global Survey, finds 63 per cent of business leaders ‘agree’ or “strongly agree” that artificial intelligence (AI) will have a larger impact on the world than the internet revolution and half (49 per cent) reckon that AI will displace more jobs than it creates in the long run.

The latter remains something of an unknown because AI will also create jobs but there can be no doubt that leading in a period of such automation will bring huge changes.

How will these changes, for example, impact on a leader’s capacity to manage the interfaces between themselves and the world of automation, as well as that between human and robotic workers?

Taking a philosophical approach to leadership could be one of the techniques that help leaders better adapt to today’s demands

To stimulate thought and debate and ultimately help equip leaders to face these future challenges, Rialto is conducting a 10-year research project in which we invite participants to discuss the skills and capabilities they think will be important based on current and future trends. The events are aligned with the Rialto Accelerated Leadership Index (RALI) tool, which enables leaders to benchmark their capabilities.

Common threads that transpire across the different groups are that leaders need to be more collaborative, flexible and agile as well as more emotionally intelligent. In one group, leaders emerge almost as superheroes, who will need a range of capabilities that can be switched on and off, enabling them to react to what is happening around them.

Elsewhere, there is a call for greater diversity at senior level and that multiple voices must be given airtime at the top table. One group suggested leaders must also have a more spiritual leaning in terms of being able to connect to people and the environment around them.

One of the most pleasing things to happen so far is that the sessions are spawning considerable creativity around the subject of leadership. And as well as considering it as a set of capabilities, attendees are also viewing leadership as a philosophy, which is a real positive in the fast-changing current climate since a philosophy is fluid and able to be moulded to match a set of conditions.

Indeed, taking a philosophical approach to leadership could be one of the techniques that help leaders better adapt to today’s demands. It is relatively early days in the project though, and we’re not suggesting that we have all of the answers yet. But Rialto looks forward to reporting back with further findings in future newsletters.

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