What makes a great leader today?

What makes a great leader today?

It’s fair to say that it is harder to answer this question than it was five- or certainly 10 years ago.


Time was when leadership development circles could devote a lengthy discussion to subjects such as whether leaders are born or made, the different leadership profiles, how you develop followership and the shift away from hierarchical towards more collaborative leadership.

These are still valid discussion points but there is far less time to contemplate what makes a good leader these days.

The pace of technology, pressures of digital transformation, new business models, increased number of potential sales channels as well as the rise of the always-on, 24-7 consumer, have meant the emphasis is on being reactive and agile and leading through constant change.

Leaders have to be able to adapt and respond, whilst ensuring their organisations have the skills, talent, and infrastructure to go forward. It has placed a premium on skills such as agility, flexibility, resilience, robustness, managing risk, as well as navigating through ambiguity and complexity.

Today’s businesses require a lot from their people.  Employees have concerns about their own future with robotic process automation and technologies like artificial intelligence eradicating and changing roles. This means leaders must draw upon strong “soft skills” such as empathy and excellent powers of communication to be able to engage with all the groups in their workforce, motivate them and unite them behind the mission. This will often mean connecting with age-diverse and geographically dispersed – and remote – workforces.


Present day leaders also have to be comfortable with technology in all its many guises whether it is using data analytics in decision-making or embedding automation and robotics in the workforce.


Daily work pressures mean it can be extremely easy to let skill-sets stagnate and not move with the times. But that could prove the biggest folly for both you and your future career and the immediate and long-term business. Any missing or weak areas have far more chance of being exposed than previously because of the scale and pace of change hitting businesses.

The Rialto Consultancy has a long history of equipping leaders with the skills they need not just today but going forward. And using the Rialto Accelerated Leadership Index (RALI) tool, which draws on real-time data about leaders’ current skill-sets, we are able to accurately benchmark leaders against their competitors in their own industries as well as other sectors and pinpoint where leadership development efforts need to be focused.

At a time when leadership is changing radically, individuals must recognise the importance of keeping their skills up-to-date. It’s no coincidence that one of the other characteristics often cited in lists of much-needed leadership skills and characteristics is an ongoing/lifelong desire to learn.

Keeping an open mind to learning new skills will expose you to fresh thinking and new ideas which is another crucial personality trait in the ever-changing business environment.

With UK leaders also uncertain about how Brexit, described as one of the country’s biggest peacetime challenges, will affect them, ongoing change will be our companion for some time yet.

It is impossible to adapt to every change, mitigate every risk and plan for every eventuality. What is possible though is to invest in the kind of leadership development that will give you the broadest skill-set to deal with whatever comes your way as a leader in the immediate, medium and longer term and to turn it to a positive business and personal advantage.


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