Leaders of the Future

Leaders of the future will need to remix their capabilities, pivot like never before and embrace new relationships. Why? Because we are experiencing an exponential growth of knowledge; the explosion of technologies such as artificial intelligence and the increased capabilities of virtual and online experience; a concern for the widening equity gap; and the increased diversification of our workforces. How do we attract and keep talent? How do we keep an outwards mindset while still working in today’s world?

There are some key themes that I believe will affect all organisations and these were highlighted in my last post. In this post I want to specifically look at the implications of each of these eight trends as they apply to leaders of all organisations:


 Workers expect that opportunities for professional learning are connected to them and their work and that these opportunities will be ongoing.  In their excellent paper New Ways of Working the B team explain the importance of providing “planned experiences and unplanned opportunities” that allow both structure and flexibility. There is give and take needed and workers value the opportunity for growth and leadership.

People are keen to work in organisations with less red tape and more plain language. Simple, transparent language and a touch of humility go a long way. “Be you.” Be honest – people don’t expect you to be perfect but they do want you to own up and learn from mistakes.

Businesses are increasingly  looking to employ people who have transversal skills that are relevant across a broad range of occupations and industries. Part of the role of business is to be more active in supporting schools to focus on a wider range of success indicators and to move beyond a focus on subjects where silos are maintained.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • Put pressure on schools and tertiary institutions to move beyond testing, to measure learning in new ways and to honour transversal skills.
  • Expect students to provide portfolios of growth, be able to communicate and demonstrate application of their learning.
  • Look for ways in which to ‘pull’ workers to opportunities and immerse them in valuable work for themselves, your organisation and society.


  • Reverse Mentoring – by 2030 it is predicted that 75% of the workforce will be millennials. Use their talents in authentic ways and seek to understand them  – now!
  • The Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum. One of the most forward thinking curricula in the world, pressurised by national testing and exams but with amazing opportunities.


Expectations have changed. In an increasingly technological world an appreciation for humanity and connecting on a one to one level is valued. People entering the workforce have had more experience in having a ‘customised life’. The Internet of Me takes the pervasiveness of technology and crafts it to meet my needs. Sensors monitor behaviour in real time and bots alter experiences based on what we search for.

Businesses are starting to work differently. Baby boomers are leaving the workforce, millennials are taking responsibility for business and Gen Z is emerging as a force. As millennials start to play a greater role in business they will want greater work life integration; flexibility of hours and acknowledgement of diversity. There will be less of a focus on career ladder progression. In the personalised world rewards will vary, as will expectations. One size fits one.

Immediate response is expected – “we want it and we want it now!” We need to embrace design thinking, with rapid cycles of prototyping and feedback that is ongoing.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • Find out what skills, attributes and experiences your staff have -value, acknowledge and use their talents. Conscious leadership values people.
  • Understand what a dynamic online presence looks like for school leavers and employees. CVs will be replaced by self-customised portfolios that outline a portfolio career so allow for these in your recruitment systems.


  • Future Traveller Tribes 2030 explores what personalisation will look like for the future traveller. Expect the collection and use of data to enhance your experience.
  • The Office of the Future – one vision for the personalisation of the physical workspace of biophilia, nanotech and holograms.


Learning is increasingly available 24/7 as technology becomes more pervasive. The human role is becoming increasingly disrupted. Workers are able to work from anywhere at any time and increasingly want to work remotely ie from home. Time and space are merging.

Millennials’ ability to use social media can be a great amplifier for your business – so create an environment where the amplification is positive! It is possible to have better results in a shorter time, although the use of technology does not guarantee that.

Leaders must understand the implications of the Internet of Things. The world is becoming increasingly digitised, networked and automated and there are huge implications for the world of work. We will need expertise in multiple disciplines.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • Help and encourage workers to build networks and harness global knowledge. An outwards mindset is increasingly important. Foresight, including the ability to scan the environment, increasingly involves crowd sourcing – and technology is the enabler.
  • Understand that employees will bring their own technology to work. This shadow IT is both a risk and an opportunity. If you don’t understand it – it’s a risk.


  • NZQA innovations to transform qualifications through digital opportunities, including a universal record of achievement and just in time assessment.
  • Shaping Tomorrow – this is a great site to scan the environment and think strategically.


Organisations are becoming more deprivatised and more people are expecting to work in teams. Workers prefer to work for an organisation that is more transparent. This does not mean that decisions should be made democratically or that positional power has disappeared for all organisations. While the organisational chart is still a feature of many organisations there is a move from control to flatter structures or networked models of leadership.

Workers expect to be better informed and prefer to work for you if there are opportunities for reciprocity of openness. Find ways of sharing insights and ways for workers to share insights right back. Mind the gap – don’t let the gap between you and workers get too big. Explore opportunities to crowdsource ideas and provide ongoing communication within and beyond your organisation. In a networked world you are under constant scrutiny. You only need to explore some of the petitions on change.org to realise the world knows your business.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • Be transparent in your processes and seek to involve people.
  • Explore design thinking processes such as empathy and user experience and consider how these might be used in your organisation.


  • Holocracy – dynamic roles replacing typical job descriptions.
  • Find out about The Open Organisation – a book by Geoff Whitehurst, from RedHat. See the video below for some initial information.


Have you noticed that there is an increasing blur between business and social issues? There is less of a focus on short term profit and more on sustainability, meaningful contribution and a noble purpose. Community and environment are key stakeholders in organisations and leaders that don’t take note of this will not be attractive to employees who have any choice in where they want to work. An ethical brand matters. One of my ‘must follow’ teams, the B Team , has Drive full transparency as it’s first key challenge for organisations. They make it clear that the need is to:

Be open, transparent and free from corruption, with good governance and accountability at all levels of our organisations.

Many organisations have developed a programme of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate volunteering. The trend though is moving beyond CSR is to live and breathe responsibility. Coming back to the focus on authenticity, organisations are watched for their ethical behaviour on a daily basis not just for one or two high profile activities no matter how fulfilling they might be.

How can we support people to be less consumer and more member? An important step is to be involved with projects that have social impact and encourage staff to be involved. A focus on happiness can also have a major impact on the wellness of your organisation and what this looks like for different generations and for individuals. For example, according to CEB (The Corporate Executive Board Company), millennials’ core values are happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • Take time to make a difference for good.
  • Ask new employees what attracted them to your company and do more of it.
  • Make wellness a key aspect of your organisational aspirations.


  • bmeaningful connects professionals and companies seeking to make a difference. Check out the purple sheep!
  • Inspiring Stories tagline – imagine if every young New Zealander unleashed their potential to change the world.
  • Etsy has a happiness index based on the positive psychology work of Martin Seligman – how does what you are delivering measure up against your cultural ambitions?
  • hiSbe a Supermarket focusing on happiness before profits.
  • Serve New Zealand – an initiative to volunteer for good work, being launched on ANZAC Day with support from SVA and the RSA.


Intergenerational, multicultural workforces. Global connections and disruptions. Technology. These are three key drivers of change – exponential change. In such times we need hybrid leaders and multitalented teams – those who can flex with the context and understand the world of complexity. An open mindset is fundamental for leaders to model.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • A shortage of talent requiring older workers to stay in the workforce and millennials taking over leadership roles will require more team understanding and relationship building.
  • Understand the difference between complex and complicated systems and how as leader you must react differently (see the Cynefin framework below).


  • Augmented Leadership –  using the opportunities and resources in the virtual worlds and robotics.
  • Collective Impact – using complexity to lead change – the Cynefin framework
  • The Cynefin Framework – Dave Snowden from the Cognitive Edge – Making sense of complexity in order to act


The power of the individual to be their own personal brand has never been stronger. Responsibility for success is no longer simply in the hands of an employer to engage. And the increasing opportunity to make a difference, contribute or disrupt is amplified with the use of technology.

In a technology-laden world it is difficult to ‘turn off’. Cognitive overload is a self regulated responsibility. It’s also the responsibility of leaders to model and to put systems in place to reduce overload. Work-life balance is an old paradigm when boundaries are increasingly blurred between personal and professional lives. Increasingly with access to mobile technology, we are ‘always on.’ So perhaps we should start addressing personal work-life integration. This holistic approach focuses on me taking responsibility for my health, as part of the quantified self trend. Wellness coaches are growing at a faster rate than fitness coaches.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • An increased number of people will be choosing to freelance. This diversity in workplace arrangements will place the worker as an agent rather than employee.
  • Expect and encourage self responsibility and risk taking.



Global connectivity is providing us with new opportunities to connect. Communities and businesses are also working together in new ways. This ‘glocalisation’ must be managed so that we meet the needs of our local community, and do so within a global network. This will continue to be a source of tension as we seek to create win-win collaborations.

The use of collaborative robots, which will be able to work safely with humans also signals significant change in the workforce. As their visual sensors and machine learning capabilities become more sophisticated they will be able to adapt to the needs of their human co-workers. Robots will change the nature of the work available, reducing the number of jobs focusing on linear, replicable tasks.

2016 will be a year when we see a huge growth in the potential of collaboration. Look out for the book I am curating on this topic.

Implications for Leaders of the Future:

  • find partners to collaborate with, around something that matters and could not be achieved alone.
  • consider both motivation and the skills to collaborate; think people and systems.



Many generations have talked about the great changes being faced during their time. I think though, that technology, in particular, is a game changer in today’s world and that it will result in exponential change and challenge our understanding of what it means to be human. If I was to choose one of the above trends as key for leadership in the future it would be ethical.

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