By Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd
There are five leadership areas that seem to be emerging as requirements for the leader of the future.
The process starts with selecting leaders who have demonstrated a collaborative mind-set and who work comfortably in a networked leadership.
Second, we focus on leaders who see the development of people as one of their most important goals, including providing honest feedback, career guidance, and learning opportunities.
Third, the leader of the future will need to be digitally confident and able to speak the digital language of the newest generation of workers.
The fourth facet of the 2020 leader is being a global citizen, in the broadest sense. This means being not only a leader who can work well across cultures but also one who realizes the value of working with governments and nongovernmental organizations in the intertwined dependencies of the future.
Finally, anticipating the future and building the capability to address it are the fifth capability area required for the 2020 leader. As professor and management expert Gary Hamel says, “There’s little that can be said with certainty about the future except this: sometime over the next decade your company will be challenged to change in a way for which it has no precedent.”
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Bringing the disciplines of leadership and management together into an integrated model will require a reevaluation of how we develop leaders. In the 1990s and into the 21st century, a popular HR practice was to identify competencies, assess them, and create development activities aimed at specific competencies. Eventually a sizable consulting industry arose around this model, making it especially enticing to be able to purchase off-the-shelf products to jump-start leadership development programs.
For the leader of the future to project an authentic, genuine, and believable approach, these capabilities must work together and be integrated into a whole experience for followers. The integration of skills and knowing when to use them is far more important than measuring and commenting on each part by itself. Effective leadership needs to live in the day-to- day environment of operational execution and therefore must be integrated with management.
To use an analogy, Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has challenged the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach of thinking about what food and vitamins we need – what he calls “nutritionism” – and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.
Likewise, our leadership and management practices must be informed by the ecology of the organizational environment in which employees reside and in which markets change constantly. Leaders do not live apart and distinct from employees who are a part of the overall chain of an organization, and leadership skills are more useful when developed holistically, rather than in isolation.