Next generation leadership is about leading in the most turbulent of times. Leadership in the 21th century will be influenced by constant change, geopolitical volatility, technological disruptions, and economic and political uncertainty. Mastering and staying on the top of these major forces of change will be the defining characteristics of next generation leaders.
The late professor Peter Drucker once said, “Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision”. Leadership in the next generation will be about taking not one, but many courageous decisions. There are important implications for next generation leaders when it comes to managing disruptions and forces of change. Some of these implications are:
Leadership has significantly evolved over the last 10-15 years, in correlation with the evolving dynamics and complexity of the corporate world. In conjunction with our roles at work, our personal lives have also evolved. Leadership has a new definition and characteristic in both our personal and professional lives.
The differences between previous and current leadership styles are stark. The spectrum on which different defining characteristics of leadership have evolved is broad. Some of the shifts below will highlight the dramatic evolution:
The definition and yardsticks of success of next generation leaders have also evolved from what we have witnessed in the past. Traditional benchmarks of achieving targets and objectives are now not enough to be successful as a leader. If we were to closely evaluate critical factors of success among next generation leaders, they can be categorised under six broad heads:
Purposeful: Characterised as one with unwavering focus, clear personal vision and clarity of thought
Resilient: Effectively and efficiently manages change, always stays ahead of the curve and has a strong character
Networks: Constantly networks, builds networks of leaders, cascades relevant messages and change
Long-term lens: Has a futuristic vision, always thinks and plans ahead and executes strategically
Adapts: Manages disruptions effectively, continually innovates and constantly evaluates priorities
Value orientation: Is driven by values / beliefs, principled and strongly believes and practices ethical behavior
These behavioral and personality characteristics are critical to shape the next generation leader’s ability to lead, sustain and grow their organizations. They should be able to drive a strong sense of purpose throughout the business to guide future direction and to strongly impact performance.
As mentioned previously, the yardsticks of performance and success have changed in the domain of leadership. In today’s complex, fragmented, hyper-competitive and constantly evolving corporate world, it is imperative to have a clearly articulated and long-term view of “what the organization will bring to the world, why will it matter, how will the organization do what is required and when will the organization do what is required”.
To be able to effectively answer and act on the key questions in this long-term view of the organization, next generation leaders should be able to “create clarity at the core, define a shared vision and lead relentless execution of the strategy to meet the key organizational objectives”.
For effective implementation and execution of tasks, processes, actions and the overall strategy to be able to justify the organization’s vision and reason for existence, next generation leaders need to be extremely agile and self-aware in today’s world. The combination of the six core personality and behavioral traits described earlier should enable them to stay ahead of disruptive changes, to effortlessly guide the organization through turbulent and uncertain times and to maintain the organization’s medium and long-term growth strategy.
In conclusion, next generation leaders are being tasked with the objective of “becoming different” and “becoming better”. The forces that will test the mettle and character of a next generation leader are not organization specific anymore and nor are they category- or industry-specific issues. They are much bigger, wider and more impactful in terms of the ability to disrupt organizational strategies and growth paths.
Are you a Next Generation Leader?