With technology pushing the boundaries of what we can do and how fast we can do it, business leaders need to adapt and change at a faster pace than ever before. Find out what some of the top thought leaders from around the world think are the biggest challenges facing leaders today, and learn how you can improve your leadership qualities to become an agile, data driven decision maker.
Adapting to the pace of change in the workplace
Technology is one of the biggest drivers of business change. Great leaders are always looking for more visibility over how change impacts not just their own brand, but the values, processes and people of the companies they lead. For motivational speaker Mack Story, that means having an authentic influence over cultural and business change in the workplace:
“Everything changes today faster than ever before. Developing leaders with 360° of authentic influence at all levels who not only support change, but who also embrace, lead, and ultimately initiate positive change is the most effective way to confront change. Because change is happening at every level, leaders are needed at every level.”
Lynne Cazaly is a facilitation skills expert, trainer and inspirational public speaker who has worked with a number of executive and project teams on implementing and managing change in the workplace. Lynne believes change is as much about acknowledging what we don’t know as to what we do know.
“I see many leaders who act like ‘yep, I’ve got this’ and yet they have limited self awareness about how they’re doing and how they need to change and adapt their style, right now! That’s only going to continue. More adaptation. More pivoting, more changing is required. The styles and techniques that work today won’t in the very near future. As more teams become more diverse, distributed, remote and culturally different, you’ve got to get ready to change. Again.”
Confusing good leadership with the ability to make money no matter the cost
Environmental and labor issues continue to push businesses to greener, more sustainable methodologies. A company’s success cannot simply be measured by the latest sales report. The public has more visibility than ever over how a brand does business. The challenge of keeping it both ethical and profitable is one that good leaders will want meet head on.
Fabian Dattner is a leader, ethicist and writer at One World At Last. A founding partner at Dattner Gant, Fabian believes our greatest challenge is to make the most of the gifts we have inherited, and to strive to be more than just a profit center at any cost:
“We have a duty of care which we are squandering. We have confused money making and leadership - sometimes they cross over, mostly they don't. Ultimately, the river of time will close over our heads far faster than we would wish, and when it does, ask yourself what people will say of your tenure. If you can't answer that with calm, dignity, pride, kindness and insight, it's probably because what you are doing as a leader doesn't warrant that order of recognition.”
Learning from the past while remaining in the present
“Today’s problems are no different than problems of the past.”
John Baldoni, JohnBaldoni.com
For business leaders who’ve been around for awhile there’s nothing new under the sun. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remain flexible and open to new solutions. But, if history has taught us anything it’s that there’s a rarely a time in any industry when it isn’t in flux, either reeling from the latest disruption or racing to the next innovation.
In an information dense environment, where one shaky quarter can lead to panic in the staffroom, remaining calm is a challenge that will set great leaders apart from the pack. Drawing from your experience to inform how you make decisions in the present will help you be a more effective leader.
Staying agile with technology
Agile is more than just a buzzword. Keeping abreast of the technology landscape involves more than just spending money on the newest technology tools. Great business leaders listen to what their staff tell them, and are prepared not just to change their business, but to change themselves.
We see all too often the way an outdated approach to leadership can leave a business stranded in the ocean, too bloated with inefficient processes to turn their future around. Are you the kind of leader who is prepared to stand up and be counted? Sonia Macdonald of Leadership HQ thinks the solution for the challenge of change and taking risks is for leaders to remain agile in the face of ever increasing technology.
“The pace of change is increasing thanks largely to technology. If leaders aren’t agile enough to keep up, they hold back an entire team and ultimately, the organisation. To become agile and able to lead through change, leaders need to be constantly assessing themselves and reflecting on where they are and what they’ve learnt. Take risks, learn from the results and listen to feedback. You’re reshaping yourself and those are the tools that will help you do so. It takes courage, so step up and so it, and you’ll be an awesome leader.”
Being open to new business models
“With the business world and technology always evolving, the biggest challenge for leaders today is determining a clear path for success. Depending on your industry, there are now many different business models you could adopt, so it's important to stay on top of industry trends and be adaptable. As a leader, you need to be able to objectively evaluate whether or not you need to evolve and take a different path to achieve success.”
Brian Tracey, Brian Tracey International
Business as usual; what does it mean to you?
As a leader, you may be inclined to trust your instincts, to err towards a highly conservative approach in evaluating new business models and their suitability. Instincts can be a double edged sword, however, and many organisations are demanding more than just experience to inform how they make strategic decisions.
Unleashing the power of data driven decision-making could prepare you for future leadership challenges, but are you prepared to challenge yourself by remaining open to industry trends and changes?
Challenging behaviour through intergenerational collaboration
“I am too often with organizations in which leadership is concentrated among the old farts. They cling to the power they’ve earned through trial, error and attrition. They can’t coach the next generation, because they never studied the craft of leadership. When asked for leadership advice, they unknowingly share dogma of a bygone era, thinking it is wisdom. Leadership was once an engineering challenge (invest in tools and techniques to gain market share). Today leadership is a behavioral challenge (invest in people’s behaviors to drive results). It takes a thoughtful boss to see behind fads and dogma in order to coach the next generation of leaders.”
Chris Warner, Building Better Leaders
Business leaders are at a crucial juncture in generational change. Bridging the gap between baby boomers, Gen X and Millennials is something many organisations simply aren’t prepared for.
Historically, leadership had been about selecting the right tools for the right job. Now, with digital tools so readily available to most organisations, we’re seeing the challenge of leadership being more about our habits and processes.
Younger workers are already versed with the technology that can drive innovation through the workplace, but blending that integration with the methodology of an older generation that still thrives on gut instinct can often pit team members against each other.
The challenge for many business leaders is to accept that innovation requires change, and that we never truly stop learning from each other, regardless of age or experience.
Predicting the exponential growth of technology
Historically, our experiences with the rapid growth of technology have shown a trend towards exponential growth in computing power, while the cost of silicon continues to drop. Cheaper, faster and more integrated technology makes it harder to predict how businesses will operate even in the near future.
Theory of Accelerating Returns pioneer Ray Kurzweil demonstrates how vastly different exponential growth is to linear growth with this simple analogy:
“Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.”
On an exponential scale, the step from 29 to 30 is larger than all the steps that have come before it. That’s why all good leaders in modern business need to be aware of how technology can potentially disrupt their business overnight. Simon Waller, technology mentor and author of The Digital Champion puts it simply:
“Good leaders need to be making decisions with a five to ten year time horizon. Over that time computers will become 100 times more powerful than they are today. Between 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, robots, virtual reality, natural language processing and the internet of things there won’t be any organisations (or jobs) that operate in the same way as they are today.”
Reducing complexity in a data rich environment
Did you know that workplaces today have six times as many performance requirements as they did 50 years ago?
Often, these requirements can run counterproductive to the efficiency of teams and businesses. With staff focussed on so many competing conditions, the opportunity to think creatively and innovate is lost. Leaders that want to empower their teams will look to reduce the level of complexity through policy and automation. This will free up their staff to pursue higher order thinking, creative innovation and critical analysis. The challenge for many business leaders is to do it right.