This is part of an ongoing series about the future of leadership.
“Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.” – Tom Stoppard
Future leaders will have to become mature sooner than later. Why? Because they will be incredibly transparent. Just think about the impact of social media today. I think many of us who became leaders in the 1970s and 1980s would have failed years ago if all of our actions were immediately recorded and transmitted around the world (…but I’m just speculating here).
So, what does this mature leadership look like in the future?
I would suggest it has three key characteristics:
First, leaders will have to demonstrate empathy for those they serve. This skill will have to be evident from the outset. Even junior leaders will be expected to practice empathetic listening – listening with the intent to understand, not just reply (as Stephen Covey once elegantly stated). Empathy requires tactical patience and focused attention. Future leaders will be challenged to set the conditions for meaningful conversations every day.
Second, leaders will be expected to ask more questions than to provide answers. This trait requires both observation and careful consideration of what problem we are trying to solve. Many of us grew up in the opposite world – we were directed on what to do. Future leaders will be able to do that, but only by exception. The buy-in they’ll need will only be achieved by mutual ownership across the team. Thoughtful questions allow everyone to participate in the problem-solving process. The most effective leaders of the future will be those who build a “we” mentality in the organization by asking thoughtful questions and acting on the answers.
Third, effective leaders in the future will have to adapt to the environment much more quickly than before. Leaders can no longer accept “the way we’ve always done it” as the default way of doing things. Transparency means they must focus on learning, not blame. This starts at the top. They must admit when they might not have all the answers. They must admit mistakes, learn from them, and continuously improve. If future leaders don’t take this approach, competitors who do take this approach will likely gain an edge.
The mature leaders of the future will be the ones people want to follow, and they’ll grow others to be better people and leaders every day.
None of us can instantly have the luxuries of age and experience to become world-class leaders. This growth will require energy, patience, and persistence. But you can do it if you start these behaviors now.
Enjoy the journey!
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