At the time of writing, we are in living through a socio-political behavioural experiment which will be the ‘MBA case study of the future.’ Whether we led well during this time, for now, we can leave to excited lecturers to wax lyrically about for the next 50 years. Right now, we have a moment in time to stop and evaluate how we show up as leaders. Judging by the trends, the behaviours required for future leaders could well look like the 7'T's.
At a glance -
Mushroom management died many years ago but, some of its offspring are still knocking about. If you still think knowledge is power, you haven't met many teenagers. There is nothing that cannot be found out via Google. Get used to it. Future leaders need to accept that nothing is truly hidden now. For the determined individual, everything can be found out...your background…where you went to school…even the salaries and bonuses of you and your team.
As leaders, it might be more helpful to start from the position of ‘assume everything is known or, could be found out.’ So, the challenge that presents itself is that we need to think about what we share and what we hold onto. We need to practice being authentic and being as honest with the facts, as we are allowed to be. Otherwise, rolled eyes, a Google search and the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, will be heading your way.
Leaders will, more than ever, need to be talent magnets. The talent out there can look around, find out, investigate, do a virtual tour and make more informed decisions. Would you want to work for you? You will need to nurture talent, be a talent conduit and a talent spotter. Looking for the person who will replace you, nurturing the talent around you...become the leader people want to be spotted by. Talent will be drawn to you as you become known as a talent magnet. You will mine for talent and insist your team play to their strengths and manage their weaknesses. This is something you will role model with unwavering resolve. This means being really clear about your own strengths and managed weaknesses – then walk the talk.
Lastly, growing your own talent from within. Take risks on someone who has the right approach but not necessarily the right track record. You recognise the importance of fresh outside eyes and equally, familiar inside eyes. For new positions, always drawing outside talent in sends a very clear message to your inside talent already in.
One language will probably not be enough, maybe it never was. No one can speak every language, but you will need at least another one. Different languages are not just about words. Different cultures express how they perceive the world in a unique way and a lot of those subtle references are hidden within the language. Being able to appreciate that the world speaks differently about the same things, creates empathy.
Think about the last time that you went to another country and could not speak the language. Remember how awkward that felt. Even if they can translate and speak your language, a lot is lost in translation. Going to new countries and fumbling over everyday things, is humbling and a reminder. It forces us all to remember how comfortable we are normally and how important it is to reduce the frustration as someone attempts to understand us – many of our colleagues will be on their second or third languages. Also, seeing the moment of high connection when you talk to someone in their own words is, well, beyond words.
Everyone is more technical now. You will be relentlessly pushing for the technology that gives you the edge over your competitors. You will be guided by a compulsion to make your customers’ journeys that much easier – even though you don’t quite know what the software is called yet. You just know, believe, feel it could be better than it is.
Competent leaders also don't need to call someone from IT to make their laptop presentation work. This undermines the audience faith in you and puts you into 'dinosaur category.' As each generation draws breath, call them X, Y, Alpha, Beta... being tech savvy will be a given, like drawing breath. The chances are workplaces will keep evolving into virtual worlds where we don't have to physically occupy the same space to be close. However, it looks, the future leader will be embracing or even demanding it.
Targets (not just tasks)
More transformational and less transactional conversations are here to stay. Not new but, will continue to be crucial for future leaders. When it comes to 1-2-1 conversations, the goal for future leaders is that conversations with you are like paying for a great coach - without the paying bit. Focussing on the end result and being unrelenting about that. Make the end target meaningful and then, letting go. Letting the different players show their individual styles and personalities - if the targets are met.
Whenever you speak 1-2-many, you will be lighting your teams up, reminding them of where we are going and why – meaningful targets not just tasks. Each generation that comes through will be lit up by different things. Your role is to make that vision sparkling, dynamic and something that stirs the different age souls in front of you.
It is becoming more and more accepted that we all have preferences, unconscious biases and even some prejudices. Life happens to us and leaves a mark. We are all a result of our influences; you didn't get to choose many of them. These early experiences hit us and blot our view with as much control as bugs hit our windscreen. Both can be dealt with to give us a clearer view of how things are. We can acknowledge these tarnishes and choose to do something different. We can learn and need to learn to be tolerant of different thinking styles, different work needs, different work patterns... just difference.
It is a massive ‘ask’ for everyone to be expected to love everything different and new. Not just this though. The future leader will recognise this and demonstrate not just tolerance but, actively stand up and tackle inequalities and unfairness in all its many forms. Being an advocate for whatever hybrid working is required to get the best from your teams. Not always playing it safe but, standing up to be counted.
Talk-sensitive. Knowing when to push and when to pull. Picking the moment to speak and not speak. Recognising the different introverted/extroverted preferences around you – the quiet genius and the noisy genius. Knowing when to inspire, push forward and be maximum...To inspire with stories and passion. Knowing when to be gentle, humble and minimal...truly tuning in and listening. These will be expected givens. Stereotypical leadership traits from the past will stay there. You will need to be sensitive to leading multi-generational recipients of your messages. As everyone lives longer, you might well be leading 4 generations of humans – all with different needs.
Most leaders will have been personality and psychometric profiled to death. These instruments will continue to illuminate the shadows of leaders. You will rigorously pursue these assessments to nudge your own conversational flexibility. Key The goal is not to morph into whatever is in front of you like an inconsistent shape shifter. The goal is to pause before transmitting, just long enough to tweak your output to the recipient, leading to greater connection.
An after thought…
It might feel slightly daunting to think about implementing all of these elements into your leadership style. Well, chances are there will be some that that you have a natural preference for and might even be doing already! We’ve pulled together some action points below that can help you find your way through these techniques and come up with a realistic plan of action around integrating them in your day to day approach.
Call To Action 1
- Look at the 7 T's and rate your current ability in this area out of 10. Your lowest scores are your priority...
- What are you doing already and can continue to do?
- What will you do?
- When will you do it?
Call To Action 2
- Talk through this article by sharing with a colleague. The best way to integrate learning is to teach someone else...