The challenges facing 21st century leaders

21st-century leaders need to anticipate change, and be agile enough to deal with the challenges that are coming at them from all angles.

Leaders have been dealing with VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) for decades, but now with ever-evolving technology and new processes, leaders and organisations are facing even stronger headwinds than they were even five years ago.

If they don’t adapt they won’t survive.

The question is: How do you maintain resilience when you’re operating in these ever-changing environments, and often feeling way outside your comfort zone?

Leadership training LondonTemplar’s Paul Minx, who spent over 18 years in senior positions in global financial services firms, most recently as Head of Leadership and Talent Development at Morgan Stanley, explains what we can expect, and how to manage change.

#The rate of change is accelerating

Removing the middle layer of management is something that we’ve witnessed for the past 20 years, and we will continue to see a move towards flatter management structures.

We’ve also seen a modernisation of workspaces and a change in modes of work. Flexible or remote working are the most effective trends.  Research by Stanford University in the US shows that remote workers are 13% more productive than their office-based counterparts.

Companies in financial services are looking at which roles will work remotely.  Trading, for instance, may not be one of these.  A remote, distributed workforce requires a different style of management and companies need to equip managers with the skills needed to lead their remote teams well.

#Artificial intelligence is coming

We’re now in the fourth industrial revolution, and are being asked to embrace the incredible depth of information and analysis that’s coming available. Individuals in client-facing roles will be able to speak with greater authority, offering new, richer perspectives to their clients.

McKinsey estimates that half of current work tasks are automatable. These functions are often highly structured and repetitive in nature. By 2030, 50% of these tasks will have been automated and jobs will have changed, becoming a mixture of humans working alongside machines. Instead of doing the work, humans will supervise and control output.

Least likely to be automated are those functions that require a greater level of emotional intelligence (EI) such as:

  • managing people
  • giving effective feedback and coaching
  • inspiring and motivating
  • interfacing with stakeholders

#The war for talent continues

There’s not enough highly-skilled talent to go around. Employers will increasingly turn to globally-sourced freelancers, the “gig economy” and crowd sourcing.

Engagement and keeping employees ‘in seat’ is more critical than ever. According to Gallup, 30% of employees feel a strong connection to their company and work for it with passion. 20% are actively disengaged and trying to undermine it.

Good people management and up-to-date performance management will be critical. Continuous feedback and coaching will replace annual performance reviews.

#The millennials are here

PwC says that the millennial generation will continue to lead the shift away from the one-life, one-career mentality. Workers will ‘follow their passion’ and companies will have to prove that they’re worth their workers’ time.

This means that organisations will have to have a greater social purpose and make sure employees see it and are part of it. Deloitte says that millennials cite lack of leadership development as one of the top reasons for leaving a firm.

#Continuous learning will be critical for success

Learning 24/7 will need to be the new normal in order to cope with the rate of change. While classroom learning will still have an important social role, more and more of it will be online (with a focus on micro and social learning).

For leaders and organisations to stay one step ahead and thrive, they’ll need to embrace a ‘change mindset’ and equip themselves with the skills needed in the future workplace.

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