What are the key characteristics of a future leader?

What are the key characteristics of a future leader?

The model make-up of a future leader is a nuanced balance of the old and new. It takes the most enduring and tested characteristics of successful leaders and combines them with modern traits that will enable them to steer their organisations through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with authority and confidence.

While it is important to be digitally minded, too much emphasis in this direction can detract from the all-important people skills that, in some instances, are already being eclipsed. But they are as relevant as they’ve ever been. Indeed, at a time when technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are breeding insecurity in workforces, a new premium is being placed on soft skills to ensure organisations and their people can manage the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Rialto Consultancy is working with leaders from all sectors and sizes of companies to help prepare them for future challenges. We believe the following five attributes will stand individuals who aspire to move into senior leadership positions in good stead.



People follow and are attracted to leaders that are charismatic and inspirational but who also have the ability to envision an exciting and bright future for the organisation and its people. They articulate this vision and then empower employees to help them realise it. It is a vision shared across the company and one that employees want to buy into because they see the benefits it can bring to them as well as the organisation. Visionary leaders never stop thinking about the future and are open-minded to ideas for re-shaping their vision. They are also able to tell compelling stories about the future offered by their vision.


Agility and adaptability

Markets are constantly evolving and new ones emerging. Customer behaviour and habits are changing. Competitors are evolving and reshaping their product and service offerings to meet the changing demands. Leaders must be quick and critical thinkers if they are able to keep pace with markets and competitors. Agile leaders can assimilate complex information and turn it into a winning strategy. They can adapt to different markets and conditions and identify and swiftly react to new business opportunities as well as potential threats. They also know a change of direction isn’t a one-off project any more and are constantly reacting to change.


Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) was one of the management buzzwords of the 1990s but it has become a hallmark of modern leaders who care about their people as well as profit. Leaders with high EI quotas are the antithesis of the archetypal command and control type who do still exist but are outmoded. EI enables leaders to empathise with people and see the world from different viewpoints. It isn’t only used to better understand the motivations and needs of the workforce but, in the era of more collaborative and partnership working, it is vital in order to build relationships with those outside of the company.



It is important for leaders to understand how they are perceived by others. Some leaders are spectacularly unaware, making them blind to the impact their behaviours and actions have on another people. Unless someone challenges a leader’s negative behaviour, it can continue for years, having a dramatic effect on motivation and, in turn, performance. It also brings the threat of contagious negative leadership where unwelcome behaviours exhibited by the leader spread throughout the company. Leaders should therefore, take a step back and consider how they are seen by others and even seek feedback from their senior and middle managers.



While some organisations and sectors remain untouched by the digital revolution, the majority will be impacted. And while the phrase “we’re all tech companies now” is fast becoming a cliché, worryingly, surveys frequently warn of a digital leadership void and engrained processes mean organisations frequently don’t have the right culture to support digital transformation. The Rialto Supercharge your leadership skills for the future report found that only 16 per cent of those surveyed ranked a digital transformation mindset as one of the three most important skills required by leaders in the future. Leaders do not have to be tech diehards but they do need to be able to think digitally to fully understand the impact technology is having on their company, sector and the wider world of business.

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