Trends in Future Leadership Development
Author: Vytautas Buciunas, co-founder and managing partner of U-Integral company, Integral Coach, adviser on organizational evolution through empowering people, top figures coach, banker, senior executive with 20 years of experience in multicultural environment (Baltic Institute of Corporate Governance).
Today, many talk about the future, the labor market, generations Y and Z and those generations’ values and expectations, the new demands on employers, robotics, artificial intelligence, dying professions, changes in education, self-organization, new trends in organizational development, the evolution of corporate cultures, the new leaders. A consistent element in each of these subjects is that they all require from people an extraordinary flexibility and changes in the usual modes of thinking and daily development, because the circumstances and conditions for decision-making are changing even during the process of thinking about them.
The world in which we live is changing rapidly and makes us adapt to its volatility. VUCA-world – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity – is our reality, chaos is a new comfort zone. The knowledge and skills that are needed today will not have value in a few years. In order to remain effective and to keep pace with the times, one must take into account the trends that determine the skills necessary for a future leader with more complex and adaptive thinking that meets the complexity of the tasks facing him.
Trend #1. Vertical development.
It is proved that a person develops throughout his life. We are used to talking about the acquisition of knowledge, skills, competencies – what is called horizontal development, which can be taken from another, more experienced person – techniques that can be used when the problem is clearly identified. However, one horizontal movement is not enough for the growth of personality. No less important is the vertical dimension – the development of human consciousness, the understanding of the principles of the world order, the evolution of thinking and action, finding new meanings in life, achieving integrity. It’s like upgrading to a more advanced operating system versus downloading additional software. Vertical development goes through the stages, as the movement of stairs, from the early to the higher stages. However, 80% of the adult population of the planet remains in the early stages of development. Upon reaching the higher stages, the thinking of leaders becomes more complex, but at the same time subtle, and, accordingly, they become able to operate in a more complex environment, to notice and connect points in diverse scenarios and to build integrated strategies. And if we face a volatile, complex and unpredictable future, then those companies whose leaders are at the highest levels of development will benefit. It is the lack of complexity of thinking that makes people feel stressed, embarrassed and overwhelmed.
Trend #2. The responsibility for their own development lies on the individual.
Development takes place only through an independent awareness of its necessity and its satisfaction of internal needs. This is not the case when the motivation comes from the HR department, coach, or any third party. It is a matter of consciously taking responsibility for your own progress. Sitting in a passenger seat next to a driving instructor, you will not learn how to drive a car. However, this does not mean that the instructor is not needed. In this case, he has a different role – not as an expert, but as a thinking partner. Through the questions, he accompanies and directs the process, defines the focus, personalizes the process to the needs of a particular individual without a “program of action” or specific terms of work with the guarantee of the result and the achievement of a diploma. Developmentalist practice is not an event, but a lifetime process. Clayton Alderfer’s theory of needs has shown that the nature of personal growth needs is significantly different from the nature of other needs. In the case of wellbeing and relationships, the more we meet our needs, the less we want, while when it comes to growth and development, the more we achieve, the more we want to go further.
Trend #3. The transition from individual to collective leadership.
But in management everything is now the opposite. The traditional hierarchy is no longer working. The vertical becomes horizontal. The leader is not the one sitting above, but the one who is able to give the wheel to anyone on the team, able to keep in touch, to listen and give feedback, to be honest, to try new formats of interaction, and to the managed independence whilst being open to new ideas. The question “who is the leader?” is transformed into “what conditions should be created for leadership in the team?”
In the modern world, it can be too difficult for one person to identify a single problem and find its solution. The challenges of modern times call for a collaboration with all stakeholders, each of which has their own characteristics and their own perspectives of reality that adapt and grow in the process of finding a solution. Through these kinds of collaborations and exchanges of information, their plan development, and their mutual influence – decision-making takes place. Leadership becomes networking. Often, the best is not created by geniuses, as at the time of enlightenment, but rather is due to the large number of points of social interconnections that form a network and in which ideas find new ways of realization. Instead of a role, leadership becomes a process, without mental and geographical boundaries. It does not matter who the leader is – what is important is what is needed and how to achieve it.
Trend #4. Innovation in leadership development.
There are no ready-made simple solutions, programs, or models of leadership development to meet the needs of the future. However, there is are also no limits to experimentation and the exchange of ideas. Technologies and the internet are the impulse and platform for change. Only those who will be adaptive and willing to make changes instead of inflexible and confronting them will win. New developmental processes will take place in tiny, small steps, starting with the individual actions of innovators within companies who feel the need and the inevitability of changes. And these people should be prepared to make multiple attempts and mistakes will often be the basis for further action.
Perhaps the future leaves us with an uncomfortably large number of questions, but what we definitely need to do is to accept its uncertainty, not allowing ourselves to stop or abandon progress but to be prepared to introduce new leadership practices if we want to be in demand and to enjoy our lives. It will not be simple, but the result is worth it.