Written by: Adam Lloyd
In my recent post, I outlined intangible characteristics of great leaders today. Although those were timeless attributes, it’s time to look ahead and predict which characteristics will matter most in the future. Based on business, consumer and generational tendencies, a new set of must-have characteristics and experiences will define great leaders. Tomorrow’s executives will encounter a new set of norms and nuances that will take precedent over and supplement some of the current requirements and challenges of today’s CEO. These should not be shocking as business is already trending this way. But nonetheless, when considering future hiring, mentoring or aspirations of becoming a future leader, these traits will need to accompany the conventional resume. Time to predict the future.
Leaders of tomorrow have to be accountable today. We know that CEO’s have already reached celebrity status and manage under the public eye. Future leaders, the younger generations of today, are already in the spotlight at such an earlier point thanks to the digital age of social media and tracking advancements. Today’s habits can be traced and recorded, credibility is constantly tested. If you have dreams of one day being a large company CEO, than you better treat it like a presidential run and be conscious of your actions. In the future, it won’t be enough to be aware of your actions when in the leadership seat, but also of your choices leading up to it. That posted picture of doing a keg stand in your college years… probably not a good idea. Future leaders need to understand the full consequences of all their actions.
With the continued access to seed funding, capital and start-up support, more and more talented individuals will run independent companies. The behemoths will have to compete. Start-up culture is very different than life in publicly traded multinationals. CEO’s of the future will work alongside its employees in flat environments forming close bonds with the select few that join initially. This is happening today in the start-up world and is nothing new when you consider open-concept offices and less emphasis on titles and hierarchy. Not to be confused with the old boys club, a fraternal sense of belonging will be important to employees that join these companies and will require larger organizations to make shifts to compete. People like progressive movements and a sense of belonging over an employee ID number. Think of Facebook alumni status today. Future leaders that can climb down from the metaphorical tower will thrive.
Future CEO’s and executives will be mobile, flexible and open-minded. This relates to ideology and physical whereabouts. They will not necessarily have a set home base. As most leaders are doing today, the leaders of the future will rely even more on portable support in terms of technology, data and resources. Being in two places at once will be status quo. As global infrastructure investments make strides in developing countries, they will become expansion markets for many companies and will require leadership presence. The increased ease of delivering goods and services to new markets and consumer groups will also result in the need to be in these locations, both physically and by collaboration technology. At the same time, products and services themselves are ever-changing, requiring nimble and progressive thinking to stay ahead of product development. We already see five year strategies being cut down to one year. Change is happening at faster rates. Future leaders will be on the go, both physically and mentally.
The next leaders will have well rounded life experiences. This is not just the ability to meet the diversity statistical make-up and quotas of the organization, but refers to the actual life diversity of the executive and ability to accept opposing views. Relating to people everywhere will be very important. Leaders in the future that have only lived, worked and are familiar with one region will have a tougher time transitioning to cultural etiquette, preferences and challenges globally. Spending time in different parts of the world will be valuable and as important as time in the classroom. Not everyone has the funds to see the world, therefore study abroad and international internships are great avenues. Real cultural diversity comes from differing viewpoints and life experiences. Executives that are traveled having lived, studied or worked around the globe will see the world much smaller. It’s easier to apply a broader view to business strategy and be versatile when the global market is a smaller playing field.
Speed. Speed. Speed. Future leaders will have to cater to all audiences (stakeholders, employees, customers) at a much faster response rate to accommodate the future generation’s instant gratification tendencies and immediate conveniences. Any information sharing or employee engagement that is anything less than immediate, will be deemed as prehistoric. Work and play will only continue to become more meshed and it will be as ever important to throw out the notion of “work hours” to supply the demand of real-time expectations. Increased micro vacations and business leisure trips will occur, but truly being unplugged will become a true luxury. Being tied to technology is common today, but the leaders of the future will have to be a little quicker to the draw. Caution, although quick to respond, there is a fine line to being careless and irrational. It should be noted that timely and thoughtful responses will be required.
There’s a glimpse. If you’re looking ahead; seek out, adopt and prepare for these tendencies and experiences to stand out amongst leaders in the future.