Futureproof Your Leadership

Trends and Predictions for An Ambiguous Future

As a coach, I am often asked how to prepare for the future. It can feel taxing as a leader to think about your own future and that of your team. This is especially true for entrepreneurs, as everything depends on their abilities. I recently came across a quote that perfectly captured what it’s like to think about future needs in leadership.

“The fact is nobody knows what the future will look like. It is all too easy to focus on one single trend, development, or incident, then extrapolate and jump to the wrong conclusion. But there comes a time when people have a feeling that change is in the air. We live in such a time.” ~ Georg Vielmetter, Yvonne Sell

This resonates with us as we have all been guilty of hyperfocusing on the future. Truthfully, there is no way of knowing what will happen, but this doesn’t mean we can’t reflect and prepare for it.

So, on that note, let’s look at three major trends you’d be well served to monitor and prepare for.

Adapting to a Rapidly Changing World

There’s no doubt that we live in a global village. In seconds, trending news on social media alerts you to what’s happening in different parts of the world. We saw this during the pandemic and continue to witness how the world is shrinking as we become more interconnected. Through globalization, we see improved trade and connectivity, leading to shifting economic power dynamics.

This means leaders are tasked with equipping themselves with skills that allow them to anticipate and navigate radical change. With complex systems at hand, leaders need to develop cultural intelligence and become more adaptable to navigate various markets.

This, however, doesn’t just apply to multinational organizations. Globalization has also opened up opportunities for smaller enterprises to engage in cross-border trade, thereby leading to exposure to different customers and their preferences. It has contributed to small businesses feeling pressured to position themselves strategically to compete effectively, which can result in strained resources.

Interconnectedness also implies that if one player is affected, so is everything else. The pandemic and recent events serve as proof. The global economy is still trying to recover from the effects of a worldwide shutdown, which resulted in strained healthcare systems, increased layoffs, unemployment uncertainty, and a worsening cost of living crisis.

As a leader, being aware of the implications of events around the world is key. We are far past the period where turning a blind eye to global events was acceptable.

Knowing how the global economy works and what it means for you is important.

Adaptability is essential for leaders in today’s world since change is rapid and often presents unexpected challenges. Leadership also requires agile tenacity, which “involves a powerful blend of adaptability, resilience, and grit.” You’ll need to be able to handle adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and stay motivated despite tough times.

Questions to Ponder

1.      How flexible is my organization or operating unit?

2.      Are our strategy and operating model adapted to the demands of different regions?

3.      How can you ensure that leaders are equipped with the conceptual and strategic demands required for the demands of the new globalization?

Leading in a Digital World

Generative Artificial Intelligence

According to Salesforce research, the majority of users of generative AI tools such as Chat GPT are Millennials or Gen Z, with 72% of them being employed. They primarily use AI to automate work tasks or for communication. Conversely, Gen X or Baby Boomers constitute 68% of non-users.

This means the conversation is past “why do we use this” to “how can we use this to improve business.”

As a leader, navigating this change in real time means being willing to accept that certainty doesn’t exist.

Though it is not clear yet how AI will affect work in the long term, what we can be certain of is that it is likely to stay. There’s a growing fear of who will be affected, and it’s important to understand. AI will affect everyone, regardless of position, and what will determine if one stays is if you can prove that AI can’t outperform you. With so much anxiety and fear, knowing how to tackle various discussions with empathy is key.

The future of work calls for leaders who can learn to use AI responsibly and can oversee and assess their teams’ ability to use it well. There will also be a greater need for leaders who are actively working towards closing the gap between organizational goals and AI knowledge.

There’s also growing concern over the ethical use of Generative AI. Most employees are already fearful of being replaced or lacking enough skills to keep up. Not to mention concerns that AI will be used to bypass employee rights, leading to micromanagement and a lack of data privacy and protection.

Questions to Ponder

  1. In what ways can you encourage open dialogue and transparency surrounding AI integration to ease employee fears and build trust within the organization?

  2. What steps can you take to proactively address concerns about micromanagement, data privacy, and protection in the context of AI implementation

Remote Work

For most industries, remote work has become the norm. However, employees are raising concerns as some organizations push for a return to “in-office” work. Remote work allows for flexibility and better work-life balance for everyone. Organizations are tasked with acknowledging this, and instead of pushing for a revert, the focus should be on implementing strategies that support this culture.

Currently, a hybrid work culture tends to be the norm as it balances in-office and remote. However, flexible work policies will soon no longer be optional or a benefit but a way of life.

This is also further driven by the fact that employee priorities are changing, and it will be important to be able to accommodate this.

Leaders will be tasked with creating environments that foster and support a sense of unity, collaboration and engagement among people who are less likely to meet. It calls for more trust in employee productivity and initiatives geared at encouraging improved team dynamics off-screen.

Questions to Ponder

  1. How do we attract digital talent and harness the innovation and creativity of the unconventional digital generation?

  2. What leadership competencies are required to manage and engage remotely, and how do we equip our leaders?

Fostering An Environment Where Everyone Thrives

With so much uncertainty in the world, it’s unsurprising that almost everyone feels stressed out. Leading in today’s world means being conscious of this and actively working towards creating an environment that champions empathy and compassion.

Emotional intelligence is and will continue to be a key quality to hone.

Self-awareness, self-regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness are just some of the essential skills for leaders. These skills will aid in better decision-making, conflict resolution, team dynamics, and collaboration.

Navigating all of this can seem overwhelming. To this end, it’s also important not to neglect oneself. Amidst a mental health crisis and with more conversations being had on stress and burnout, it will be essential to ensure that you prioritize your well-being. As the saying goes, you can only pour from a full cup.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

There’s also a great need to influence work culture and make it more inclusive. Inclusion should be a way of life and not a separate initiative.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging shouldn’t just be something a company talks about but actively works on.

This calls for leaders who can ensure that this happens.

It means really understanding the organizational gaps and challenges, barriers of entry, and working towards creating systems that push for and support inclusivity. It’s worth noting that this shouldn’t just be about making the environment more inclusive but also ensuring that the culture supports inclusivity and allows for growth and no discrimination.

Purpose Leadership

We’ve seen many cases where organizations are held accountable for not aligning with their values. As generational change happens, there’s a greater push for organizations to align with their values. This means not just hopping on to a trend but actively ensuring that the organization works towards and fosters the values it states.

LinkedIn research shows that 87% of Gen Z professionals would be prepared to quit their jobs to work elsewhere if they felt their values were closely aligned with the new company. Organizations are more likely to be called out if they act against their values and mission. It’s important to understand that the younger generation, who will soon make up 27% of the working population, prioritize well-being and have different approaches and attitudes to work. There’s a greater push for organizations to include mental health in benefit packages while supporting work-life balance.

As a leader, being able to articulate and align how your team can contribute to a greater purpose beyond profit is more likely to resonate. Additionally, organizations are now being challenged to prove how they contribute to improving the world, be it through sustainability or social justice.

Questions to Ponder

1.      Are our leaders ready to treat our employees as individuals with unique needs and desires?

2.      To what extent are environmental issues recognized within my organization?

3.      How do we actively foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging within our organizational culture beyond surface-level initiatives?

Though the future of work may be uncertain, it’s apparent that change is underway. This calls for ambidextrous leadership, meaning one can continuously reposition and boost the organization/operating unit to keep it strong while remaining open to new ideas. Fostering a culture of continuous learning is essential for staying ahead in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Building resilience and adaptability will be key in navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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