Developing leaders of the future; "a few thoughts to stimulate debate"
I read an article some time ago and whilst with a great deal of interest, I also held quite a degree more of cynicism than the author on some of the subject matter touched upon, the theme of which suggested;
“It’s time to ask ourselves some awkward questions: are older leaders up to the job of reinventing businesses and customer experiences? Here are the three characteristics the “high-potential leader” must possess
This is a key, core question as well as an awkward question on the future of leadership.
After I read the article I reflected on my personal experience and interaction with aspiring and future leaders of this generation. I have consistently noticed how many of future leaders who proclaim their ambitions overtly fancy their chances at leading large organisations. From my past and current roles as a long serving practitioner in industry as well as academia and education, may I suggest that to achieve this ambition they require more than “the skills” alone.
Positive, appropriate, and relevant behaviours strike me as a primary requisite, and hopefully without being too generalist or stereotypical at this stage, I have yet to bear witness to the positive leadership behaviours on a wider scale they state that they value actually being demonstrated by them..
From extensive and varied interactions across face to face training, lectures, seminars, workshops, conferences as well as formal and informal operating and meeting environments, and a proven track record of successful outcomes in leadership environments(“so I’m reliably informed” – some humility here),both in the UK and internationally I offer the following thoughts based on my observations:
1. Their level of understanding – this is quite good since they read, network, and social media interact until their eyes and thumbs bleed; so, knowledge is to be expected.
2. Their requirements, values, and expectations - When questioned and /or engaged and involved in research and interactive forums they most often hold what many would call “traditional” values, behaviours, and traits. Often saying that “Emotional Intelligence” and strong will as well many more recognised leadership competencies and behaviours being high on their lists.
3. Their application and the impact of technological advancement – this is where it becomes more interesting and intriguing and many of these future leaders suggest that those traditional values they
hold so high up their list are rapidly diminishing and perhaps even becoming extinct. “None of the above!” This may seem extreme but it could be that the human behaviour based/ humanistic approach to leadership is becoming extinct - like the dinosaurs before it; some of these aspiring leaders even say, like some of those old leaders that they compare to those dinosaurs (who couldn’t do it but wrote very clearly about it!) How and why is this happening?
The age of the powerful handheld mobile computer is in full play - text speak, social media platforms and all its formats, false news nightmares, LinkedIn de-professionalisation to name but a few. Many of these are used for the wrong reasons and to negative effect by the current generation and by future aspiring leaders. The speed and degree of their “Interconnectivity” is seemingly more important than interaction on a human and interpersonal scale (despite some small pockets of resentment at the loss of human interactions here and there).
Take a for instance; I have asked them questions on what leaders possess, what they want from and how they value leadership and their role models and I most often simply get responses that fit the usual criteria such as emotional intelligence ...crucially, this is proffered by them as they stare into their smart phones and tablets. They consistently dis-engage in lectures (if/when they attend), workshops, conferences appearing unaware of what is happening round them. What interests them more is in keeping up to date with social media and others downfall - that seems to be more important. There is growing pressure in the higher education system as there are more reactions of criticism at the facilitator or medium and then look at ways to demand their money back or for another chance to engage because…Well, they were so busy.
A further significant point to note is regarding business Start-ups fresh from the university schools of entrepreneurship, who portray themselves as already on the Richard Branson and Alan Sugar trail to stardom, before even a month of their business registration is counted down. Have we become guilty of “over-inspiring” and creating models for failure? Or, are we actually creating aspirations with significant substance and resources in support to enable success? The latter would seem to be more appropriate and required in the current social-economic climate.
Reflecting upon the above experiences, I also considered what the theorists and great leaders of our time may do to address this… and it may be look towards tried, tested and trusted outcomes. I had a quick thought to suggest a simple equation that may help, in some small way, to help move this discussion to a different level or in a different direction.
Einstein in his Theory of Relativity created:
E=MC2 (Energy = Mass x speed of light squared)
My suggestion (for leadership):
L=EV2 (Leadership = Engagement x Visibility squared)
I hope that’s a useful perspective...then again, I may be classed as something of a dinosaur by future leaders...