The Futuristic Leaders Needed Now – Core Competencies for 2020 and Beyond

The Futuristic Leaders Needed Now – Core Competencies for 2020 and Beyond

The modern workplace is redefining the skills seen as most valuable for business success. This is the case for all employees but especially true for leaders and managers. In short, there’s an increasing demand for leaders with core competencies, or soft skills, allowing them to steer teams, departments, and organizations through a rapidly changing business landscape. Importantly, these skills cannot be performed by a machine or replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) software.

A Harvard Business Review survey reports that managers currently spend 54% of their time on administrative tasks; however, technology increasingly allows them to focus on the more challenging aspects of management that involve intangibles like goals, missions, and vision. Yet, will this additional time deliver better leaders? Not neccesarily, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report, “Nearly two out of five HR professionals (39%) said that developing the next generation of organizational leaders would be their greatest human capital challenge in the next 10 years.”

So why are soft skills more essential for leaders than ever before? For one, as the economy and job roles evolve, more and more employees are working remotely or have flexible schedules. In addition, the generational makeup of the workforce is changing. Baby Boomers are beginning to retire while Gen Z has officially entered the workforce and Millennials are moving into management roles. Expectations among generations vary when it comes to the qualities they expect in a manager. Diverse teams require leaders able to communicate regularly and openly but also allow their employees to work independently. As Gallup notes in a recent report, “In short, a manager who is always visible, watching every minute and stopping by to ask if you got the memo is becoming obsolete.”

According to experts, these core competencies are among the most in demand for the leaders and managers of the future: 

  • Adaptability. Jason Wingard, Dean of Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, sees the need for leaders who are flexible and able to learn new skills as their job roles evolve. The evolving leader also needs to create an environment that allows for remote and contract employees to be incorporated into the company’s culture. When interviewed, Wingard said, “The Baby Boomers and Generation X are not that flexible, generally speaking.” Many mature leaders have had the same job for years and are set in their ways, while younger employees expect to change jobs and roles more often. 
  • “Out-Centric” Leadership. In today’s digital world, the easy availability of information requires leaders who are comfortable being honest about the inner workings of their organizations. According to the 2016 Deloitte Transitioning to the Future of Work and the Workplace study, 40% of executives expect to increase the communication and collaboration between higher management and workers. This means transitioning from a traditional top-down structure to a team where managers listen to the needs of their employees and seek their input when making decisions. It also requires leaders to help employees understand the “why” behind their work, connecting the individual’s job role to the overall success of the company. Managers who follow these out-centric principles are likely to see more engagement and motivation among employees. 
  • Emotional Intelligence. The leader of the future will need high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ). Empathy, vulnerability, creativity, and good judgment are all aspects of emotional intelligence that are highly valued among managers and executives. As the Harvard Business Review observes, “Many decisions require insight beyond what artificial intelligence can squeeze from data alone. Managers use their knowledge of organizational history and culture, as well as empathy and ethical reflection.”

What should managers and leaders take away from all of this? The leaders of the present and future will need to be strong communicators who is comfortable with change, able to manage diverse teams, and are unafraid to be honest with employees and seek their feedback and input about important decisions. These leaders will be coaches rather than dictators, creative thinkers rather than administrators, and role models rather than taskmasters. Interestingly, another leadership trend for 2020 and beyond is an increase in the number of women in senior management roles. While leaders of any gender can practice the competencies mentioned earlier, it may be that women are particularly well adapted to roles that require soft skills like communication, teamwork, and empathy. 

Isn’t it time that leaders who wish to succeed take a holistic view of their organization and employees?

Larry Bograd is Senior Director, Product Development at Syntrio, Inc. He is a twenty-year veteran of the training industry, serving as a learning consultant, director of content strategy, senior instructional designer, and scriptwriter. At Syntrio, he directs its Business Skills Library. He may be reached at lbograd@syntrio.com.

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