A New Way to Lead

To contend with new workplace trends, managers should rethink their traditional roles.

A New Way to Lead

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Disruptive technologies are buffeting many industries, creating turmoil in markets once considered immune to change. But less obviously, upheaval is also shaking up leadership paradigms.

The upshot: Managers need to sit up and take notice that major changes are looming. Those who are willing to change and adapt will thrive. And those who don’t will become obsolete, says Jacob Morgan, the author of a new book, The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade.

“The demands of leadership are very different today than they were even 10 years ago,” says Morgan, who also wrote a book called The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. “And in the next 10 years, they’ll change even more, for leaders at all levels.”

Morgan, founder of the Future of Work University (www.futureof workuniversity.com), reached that conclusion while doing research for his latest book. He interviewed 140 CEOs from around the globe, as well as surveyed 14,000 employees worldwide to figure out where leadership trends are heading.

The results of Morgan’s research present an unsettling scenario for managers who are resistant to change and prefer to keep using a traditional top-down managerial style, telling people what to do and making decisions unilaterally from their corner offices.

Why? Based on his interviews with CEOs, Morgan says that artificial intelligence and other technologies will increasingly make decisions for managers. This will eliminate the need for old-school, command-and-control managers.

“Artificial intelligence will effectively eliminate bad managers from organizations,” he predicts. “If AI is all about making more accurate and informed decisions, that part of managers’ jobs goes away. So if that’s all you’ve focused on as a manager, you become obsolete.”

Instead of only making decisions and issuing directives, managers need to focus more on the human element. How well managers engage and empower employees is becoming the new standard by which their performance is measured, he says.

“If you think you’re the only one qualified to make decisions, that’s a quick way to fail at anything,” Morgan notes.

No more status quo

With changes occurring so rapidly in the business world, managers will also have to learn how to lead in the face of uncertainty about where things are headed. This will require embracing new ideas and processes instead of relying on things that worked in the past, Morgan says.

“Managers will need to be comfortable challenging the status quo — with experimenting and testing new things,” he explains. “They may even have to test things in a couple of different directions at the same time. They’ll need to think about the future in a new way.”

To help with this process, managers also must put their egos aside and surround themselves with employees who are smarter and more talented. For many people, that’s an uncomfortable thing to do. But in the long run, managers can ill afford to view themselves as sitting at the top of a pyramid with employees down below them; that stereotype is rapidly disappearing.

“Instead, mangers need to realize they should be at the bottom of the pyramid, pushing everyone else upward,” he continues. “That helps to create the best ideas for services, products, innovations and business opportunities, as well as identifies new market threats.”

Bridging the talent gap

CEOs around the world also expressed concern about the growing “talent gap,” in which there aren’t enough people available to fill demand for jobs. In fact, a 2018 study by organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry predicted this shortfall will hit a total of more than 85 million people worldwide by 2030. The financial impact? A whopping $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues.

Furthermore, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2035, there will be more people over age 65 than under 18 for the first time in American history. This will only exacerbate the talent gap.

The takeaway here? Managers must strongly advocate for up-skilling and up-training for existing employees in order to produce the talent they need, Morgan says.

“Managers will also need to know what kind of training is needed — have a good sense of where the world and their businesses are headed,” he adds. “They no longer can assume a head-down position.”

In addition, managers will have to focus even more on diversity and inclusion to narrow the talent gap. This includes changing the way they hire, train and retrain their employees.

New employee mentality

Future leaders also must understand that younger employees (think millennials) want more from their jobs than just being drones that perform assigned tasks. They also want purpose and meaning in their work — know that they’re contributing to something greater than themselves, Morgan says.

“As leaders, managers need to help employees connect those dots between their roles and the bigger picture … and understand what they care about and what they value,” he explains. “To do this, you must be an effective storyteller.

“This is very hard to do because it feels a little philosophical and touchy-feely,” he adds. “It’s an emotional kind of thing that some people just don’t feel comfortable doing.”

Along with expecting more meaning from work, employees also want more transparency and higher standards for corporate morality. That means managers must feel comfortable taking a stance on issues so that employees know what they believe in from a moral standpoint, Morgan says.

Old-school managers feel they need to stay neutral and not get involved, but they no longer can afford to “play in the gray areas,” he says. “It all goes hand in hand with transparency — being open and upfront with your team.

“I always tell leaders to be transparent as they possibly can,” he continues. “Most employees have no idea what’s going on in companies or why. To create trust and a feeling of psychological safety and connection, be as transparent as you can and stop hiding in your company’s hierarchy and bureaucracy.”

Many of the aforementioned trends already are gaining traction in the workplace. As such, it’s imperative for managers who want to stay in the game to recognize these trends and reinvent themselves accordingly. Those who don’t will get practice updating their resumes.


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