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7 Traits of Highly Effective Future Leaders

7 Traits of Highly Effective Future Leaders_Yellow Spark Blog
Photo by Andrew Worley on Unsplash

7 Traits of Highly Effective Future Leaders

In the offices of the 1990s and 2000s, leadership was earmarked for certain people with specific skills. Power dynamics mattered. Lines of authority were clear. The communication regarding structure and problem solving were top down. However, the workplace couldn’t be changing faster. Age and experience, though important, is no longer the only criteria for management roles. As more millennials move into management roles, today’s companies simply need to buck up to meet demands with leadership in their pipelines.

As businesses seek innovative solutions to a challenging economic environment, companies are trying different approaches to increase productivity, engage workers and encourage growth. The traditional leadership style of top-down management is slowly evolving into a collaborative approach that empowers employees and makes the office hierarchy flatter.

As more companies adopt a culture of open innovation a new style of leadership is emerging. Collaborative leaders take a more open approach in the workplace. Team building and power-sharing are replacing the traditional forms of the corporate hierarchy. The role of leadership is evolving into a broad-based team building approach that encourages creative thought in the workplace. Idea generation from employees is opening up new paths to corporate growth and in the process, creating a new business model that gives employees more ownership of their work than ever before. The future is most definitely collaborative.

Here are some essential skills that a future leader should possess:

Be Fearless:

Disruptive technologies, climate change, availability of resources, diversity in hiring, are all realities of today and the future. A good leader will need clear intuition to see the path forward. This requires people to not be afraid to make mistakes, and decisions may radically change course if the need arises.

As a future leader, if you see a project is not working in the manner that you envisioned, don’t be afraid to call it out. This will either help make the necessary changes to set it right or help you decide whether it is useful to continue in the same line of action.

An employee who is seen as a potential leader needs to possess a big-picture vision that gives insight into imbalances in a system that will eventually become unsustainable, and be able to fearlessly call for a new strategy.

Be a learner:

As the pace of change accelerates, only those that can respond to change quickly, with a learner’s mindset will succeed. In times of change, learners will be well-equipped to deal with problems.

Consider for example our software developers who grew up creating desktop software. They now need to create software for mobile and internet of things devices, which requires an entirely new mindset and skills. Their expertise, developed over decades of their career, became nearly useless. However, many of them have learned and adapted and even made a successful business shift.

Natural curiosity will help you to become agile enough to evolve as industry needs continue to change. It is important to be able to admit you don’t know something to be able to learn.

Work Smart:

The traditional style of working advocated hierarchical guidance. Most team members would be dependent on the leader to tell them what to do. Today’s workplace needs interdependence to facilitate a common understanding between people. This helps people work smartly, and get things done efficiently.

Building your ability to facilitate understanding and develop connections between people is critical for effective collaboration. Many companies we work with express some interest to work across the company more or collaborate more between teams to save time and maximise resources. The idea is to work smarter and be more selectively collaborative.

Imagine yourself as a facilitator, not a leader or a follower. Be the person in the group who helps creates shared understanding. Don’t wait for others to do so first, and don’t try to solve it all by yourself, and then get others onboard, but rather see how you can facilitate a common vision and purpose for the group.

Be Flexible:

Let’s face it. Sometimes plans don’t work. As the old adage goes, what can go wrong will go wrong. Then what do you do? Throw your hands up? A good agile team will be able to adapt well to changing situations with effective guidance.

Traditional corporate culture relies on a series of rules, regulations and a hierarchy that force managers and team leaders to adhere to specific roles and responsibilities for both them and their teams. This can stifle the creative process and result in team members working in their own mind space as information and resources are shared and provided on a limited basis.

On the other hand, if the team is flexible and the leadership is open, teams can make these changes together. Information, resources, knowledge, time and effort are shared. This allows roles and responsibilities to evolve and fluctuate based on the greater good.

Be receptive, not reactive:

Engaging with stakeholders includes the ability to listen to them on a deep level, which means opening oneself, letting go of preconceived ideas and foregone conclusions, connecting to others, and paying attention to all voices and contributions. Great innovations can come from a factory worker, a quiet team member, or even a family member. To be a successful, the leader of the future will need to be receptive.

Being emotionally reactive, and less often in a receptive state of mind, means a person will often get flustered and upset when things don’t go according to his or her expectations and view every change as a threat to their existence. Uncertainty drives them crazy. They need predictability and want to have control over everything to maintain that predictability. This kind of behaviour leads to less trust, higher anxiety and more stress and panic. These are not conducive to team development and team management.

Responsive behaviour, however, means you anticipate problems, you are open to suggestions and change, and are not defensive in your responses. This helps foster a more open team dynamic and will help you achieve goals in an effective and efficient way.

Commitment to vision:

There is a direct relationship between the efficacy of leadership and the passion towards the mission, vision, and values of their organisation. Whatever products and services an organisation produces and whoever its customers may be, powerful positive leaders convey a clear vision for the future of their organisations and an articulate and well-defined purpose or mission.

There is a simple adage. If the people of an organisation, irrespective of the position they occupy, do not know what their leaders are going to say before they say it, then the leaders are not communicating their message with sufficient frequency and effectiveness. This means all members of the team, leaders and their employees, never lose an opportunity to tell their organisation’s story or share its mission, vision, and values.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the winning company is that everyone, at any link in the supply chain, can articulate its mission, vision, and values.

Be empathetic:

A good leader needs to know that everyone has something to offer, and honour the responsibility of each to bring those to the table. To be able to hear and understand the issues the team is facing is important. It is also important to incorporate everybody’s point of view.

A successful leader will need to wear the shoes of all the team members at any point in time. Be it a project manager, a facilitator. They need to keep in mind the qualities of their team members, be able to step in when there is a lacuna, be able to reprimand and reward at the right time, as well as be understanding to their needs. It is important to have the vision to allow team members to grow in their roles and careers as well.

Leadership is viewed as positive and good, and everybody covets the position but in reality, of course, only some can be leaders. Being a leader is something quite different. There are all kinds of leaders, good and bad, effective or inefficient, powerful and controlling or collaborative.

The leader of the future needs to walk a thin line – he needs to be trustworthy, transparent, and open to leverage strong teamwork and business outcomes. In establishing criteria for identifying and developing potential leaders to groom into high-level roles, it would make sense decision-makers look for some of these top qualities that lead to both great work relationships and equally great business results.

Yellow Spark’s expertise lies in developing and conducting customised programs for employees in leadership roles to enable them to effectively manage the people side of the business. Find out how we can collaborate, write to us – contact@yellowspark.in

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.