As the world becomes more connected, more transparent, and more diverse, businesses need a new type of leadership. This new leadership requires different skills to lead organizations into the future successfully.
The challenge is that few businesses are offering emerging leaders the scope of experience they’ll soon need. According to a study by the American Management Association, 48% of organizations believe that developing global capabilities in their leaders is a top priority. That being said, only 18% of multinational companies say they have the strong global leadership pipeline necessary to meet their future business challenges.
A new report by Deloitte examines the needs of the future workplace given these changing dynamics. As organizations become social enterprises, they are under increased scrutiny from the public and their stakeholders. Social Enterprises bring meaning back to the workplace and combine generating profits with respect and support for employees, customers, and the communities in which we live. Leadership in these organizations must reflect values of diversity and transparency.
I recently spoke with Deloitte’s US Human Capital Leader, Erica Volini, about the changing work environment and the three most important leaderships skills required to manage these future challenges.
Bonnie Marcus: The new report addresses how organizations now need a new type of leadership. What’s driving this?
Erica Volini: First, the workforce is radically different. Not only is it diverse in terms of race, ethnicity and age, but there’s diversity in how they think about work. The fastest growing segment of the workforce is the alternative workforce, the gig economy. If you’re a leader, you have to manage a workforce that is very complex and diverse, and has a lot of different needs and different styles of working.
Secondly, organizations right now are under the spotlight externally and have to listen to and actively manage what’s happening in the external environment. Leaders need to play a role in driving that. They need to not only be managing their stakeholders internally but have to be managing their stakeholders externally across the ecosystem, which is a brand new skill for leaders to have.
Finally, the issues facing organizations are more complex than they’ve ever been. Everything about work is changing; the influx of technology, geographic expansion, an increasingly complex global world, increased regulations from the government.
Marcus: What type of leadership do organizations now need?
Volini: Leaders today need to have an inclusive leadership style. They need to be extremely agile. They need to be able to be fluid and evolve as the market evolves. They need to be externally connected and on top of the trends that are happening. It’s not like these attributes are brand new. It’s not like managing a complex workforce is new, but it’s complexity at a new scale. It not like being externally connected wasn’t important before, but it’s more important now because there’s so much happening in the external environment. So you need to take those variances and shift the expectations and change the competency framework for leadership. You need to make sure those revised competencies are embedded in your performance management system and in your compensation system. And you have to change every process in how you develop leaders.
Marcus: How must leadership programs adapt to teach these new skills?
Volini: A lot of leadership programs today are focused on education. We sit leaders down in a classroom and give them content. Our view is that leadership training needs to be a combination of education, experience, and exposure.
Marcus: How does an organization foster experience and exposure?
Volini: In order to give someone the right exposure, a company may get them into networks or programs outside the company. There are so many different experiences and opportunities that leaders can have externally that they can bring back to the organization. This addresses the point of being more connected with the external environment and leveraging what’s out there. But to me the big shift is changing leadership programs from being education focused. This is about a fundamental shift in how we think about these processes. And these leadership programs need to start early in people’s careers.
Marcus: What can women do to prepare themselves for this type of leadership?
Volini: Women need sponsors. They need people to champion them, give them exposure, pull them into opportunities where they may not naturally get the opportunity. And the best thing in my mind that any woman can do is develop those sponsors early. Because if you have the true sponsors, they’re going to help you get the exposure you need to move up the ladder.
This is really hard because sponsorship can’t be driven by a formal program. It has to form naturally and oftentimes there aren’t natural opportunities for people to get to know each other. Women have to work very hard to seek out sponsors. But I also think that when organizations know that inclusion and diversity of thought is a high business priority, they have more accessibility to those types of interactions.
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