Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aims fulfilled
They will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
–Lao Tzu (6th Century B.C.)
Our world is changing rapidly due to colliding influences that include economic volatility, increased financial debt and health care challenges precipitated by COVID-19, political polarization, social justice issues, and an overall erosion of trust in societal institutions. Combine those influences with some of the recent impacts on the workplace, such as higher levels of remote work for knowledge workers, shifts in skill requirements for employees, and increased expectations to deliver results faster, leaders in every sector are being called upon to respond in new and innovative ways.
As I’ve been reflecting on these colliding influences, I’ve been asking myself: “what skill sets will this require of leaders today and in the future?”
In his book, Nobody in Charge (John Wiley & Sons, 2007), Harlan Cleveland states that he believes that there are four major attributes the leader of the future will need to have:
- Energy to work hard, long hours. Future leaders will need to go the extra mile to study and learn cutting edge technology and information that will be needed to make good decisions.
- Managing through consensus. With a wide range of people in charge of various aspects of the enterprise, future leaders will need the ability to include them all in the decision-making process.
- Facing ambiguity with enthusiasm. Leaders of the future will need a personal disposition that is enthused, rather than daunted by choices and options. They will need to thrive on ambiguity to be successful.
- Ability to guide rather than taking the reins solely in their own hands. They will need to be adept at influencing direction without necessarily mandating it.
While Cleveland’s book is now almost 15 years old, I think his assessment is spot on. I’m also amazed at how the age-old wisdom from Lao-Tzu aligns with Cleveland’s point of managing through consensus. In my experience, the best leaders inspire and empower their teams to accomplish work, so that they can say “we did this ourselves.”
When you think about the challenges ahead in your environment, what skill sets do you think leaders need to successfully navigate challenges today and in the future?
Note: Throughout this year, I’ll be writing about the skills, knowledge, and personal characteristics needed by leaders to be successful. I hope you’ll join me for the journey! You can sign up to get my weekly blogs sent to your email by signing up on my website at: https://riosconsulting.org Scroll to the bottom of the home page and enter your email address. It’s that simple.