The Future of Leadership: The Trends You Can’t Ignore

Aug 11, 2017

The Future of Leadership: The Trends You Can’t Ignore

Deloitte University Press has recently released their fifth annual report on Global Human Capital Trends. A few weeks ago we unpacked trend number one, this week we’ll focus on what kinds of leaders are for the future of work. 

Trend Three: “The Leader of the Future. Needed Now.”

As the digital landscape gains maturity, its impact on how leaders need to react to and manage disruption and transformation is critical. According to Deloitte, many CEO’s don’t see the gravity of the situation and although they are embracing technology in their business, they need to also identify where the new leaders will come from.

In a Deloitte survey of 800 top business executives, 67% believed that technology will drive greater value than human capital. That’s certainly debatable, but what’s not debatable is that today, right now, companies need to train and grow the leaders of tomorrow with a different, fast changing, dynamic curriculum.

A Culture of Leadership

In professional and creative services firms, people are the product. What they know and their experience managing projects and clients simultaneously is how they make money. But people have bandwidth limitations and can only scale themselves so far. To grow, you need more and better people. It’s risky to send out someone on a client engagement that can’t lead the client.

It’s time to start to think about breeding smart, young, agile and digitally native leaders from within. The teaching of interdisciplinary skills and calmness and, flexibility under fire, today will mitigate risk in the future because your junior people will have emerged from the gauntlet you have created – all mentored and shiny and ready to lead the charge. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook said: “ The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” And “risk taking” according to Deloitte “has become one of the most important drivers of a high-performing leadership culture.”

The demand for more digitally savvy leaders is pervasive and it’s happening now in what we call the Service Level Economy (SLE). In the SLE the constant is always change creating an environment where best practices and the rules of engagement can be a moving target. It’s not enough anymore to just do digital things. To be successful you have to be digital in all you do. Which means getting your entire organization into the same system and cadence where everyone participates with a greater free flow of information, common sets of rules, beliefs and shared values.

A World of Change for Leaders

Deloitte cites that the percentage of companies with leadership learning and training programs rose from 47% in 2015 to 64% in 2017 and they also report “formal training is among the least valued investments to develop leaders.” As the chart below shows, it’s not the formal training; it’s being immersed in a culture of risk-taking, information and knowledge sharing and the ability to transform.

To think, act, and react differently takes a different kind of leader. The research indicates that only 5% of the companies surveyed feel they have strong digital leaders in place. However 72% are developing programs to become “digital.”

Roles in a Culture of Innovation

When we talk about leaders we’re not only talking about the leader at the top, C- Suite types. When there is a culture of innovation everyone can have a chance to lead. It’s not so much about who they are, it’s about the environment where they work. Taking chances and raising one’s hand with an idea only happens in organizations that foster it. Deloitte identifies three types of digital leaders than can emerge from a lead-first culture. “We see three different types of digital leaders, and most organizations will need some combination of all three:”

  • Digital investors: Senior executives who embrace the VC mind-set, uncover opportunities, invest in talent and ideas, forge partnerships, and build an ecosystem for innovation to thrive
  • Digital pioneers: Business and function leaders who can reimagine the future, shape new and different business models, and lead a winning digital strategy
  • Digital transformers: Leaders who can manage people through radical change and transform the business

The Rules for the Road Ahead

It’s safe to say that whatever you think your future as a leader will look like in the digital world, it will be not only up to you, but where you are and with whom you team with.

For professional and creative services companies, a focus on organizational readiness and a spirit of innovation will help firms create their leaders of the future – Leaders that come from the inside, not outside the organization.

Experts from Deloitte quoted in this blog are Anthony Abbatiello, Marjorie Knight, Stacey Philpot, Indranil Roy

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