The Future of Leadership (by Ben Clayton Jolly)

by Didier Marlier on Saturday May 26th, 2018

“We used to talk about the VUCA world (Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous), now we are living it every day.”

“Leaders face a learning crisis when they move from leading one size of group to a larger group.  This happens at around 15 people, 50, 100, 200 and 1,000.  As you progress you need to eat your own children – what made you successful at one stage will not make you successful at the next.”

These powerful statements are quoted in an excellent report on the future of leadership recently written by Professor Peter Hawkins and published by Henley Business School.  The report is based on lengthy research interviews with 40 global businesses and varied thought leaders on leadership.  It is very well written and makes for compelling reading.  With so much change happening, and accelerating, all across business and society this report challenges us to rethink the leadership that is really needed going forwards in our businesses and organisations.

“Tomorrow’s World” (pages 8-16) is a concise and articulate summary of the VUCA world that we live in, and will sound familiar to the regular readers of this blog.  The two quotes above come from this section.

“Tomorrow’s Leadership” (pages 17-26) summarises Henley’s conclusions about what is needed to be an effective leader of tomorrow.  These will probably make sense to most leaders in our volatile, uncertain and complex world.  Three headlines for me were:

  • The leadership of tomorrow will clearly be what we at Enablers call Context Leadership – and more.  Relationships, collaborative leadership and leaders hosting conversations will be at the centre of leadership.  “Leadership will increasingly become the skill of enabling a collaborative and co-creative process amongst peers“.  This will require a complete shift in how organisations work.
  • Leaders and organisations will need to make the shift from individual executive leader development to collective leadership development.
  • As Business Futurist Gerd Leonhard says in the video link below “Are You Ready For Exponential Change?”, “Anything that cannot be digitised or automated will become extremely valuable.”  The demands on the human hubs in tomorrows digitised organisational networks is going to require more of leaders than yesterdays system did.  At the same time this kind of leader will become more important.

The third section (pages 27-46) explores how leadership development needs to evolve to enable this form of leadership.  Unfortunately the business leaders interviewed by Henley were alarmed at the gap they saw in their own organisation’s leadership development.

“Most CEOs that we interviewed were not satisfied with the current leadership development processes and programmes in their own companies.  Among the HR directors, our research discovered a sharp divide in the view of current leadership development. Some were, what I have termed, instrumentalists, they saw leadership development in their companies as doing good but needing some improvement. At the other end were a few ‘innovative radicals’ such as HR directors who argued that… ‘Our leadership frameworks are still based on industrial age thinking’ and … that ‘most of the leadership assessment frameworks need to be thrown out of the window’.”

In addition, most millennials wanted leadership development that was much more bespoke and personally tailored, while at the same time in cohorts that were highly diverse across hierarchical levels, functions, stakeholders, countries and cultures.

Hawkins concludes that current Leadership Development Programs are often:

  • “Over-focused on providing individual development for those in the most senior roles and not focused enough on collective leadership and the leaders of the future.”
  • “Spending too long on skills and knowledge and not enough time on shifting mind-sets.”
  • “Not evaluated in terms of the impact they had on creating value for the organisation and its stakeholders.”
  • “Not aligned enough to the strategic agenda of the organisation.”

This insightful research based paper has the full title of “Tomorrow’s Leadership And The Necessary Revolution In Today’s Leadership Development.”  Revolution is an emotive word but this paper clearly defines why it is necessary and what is needed.  At The Enablers Network we agree with its conclusions.  Many of our clients and readers of this blog tell us the same.

The complexity and pace of change that all of us experience daily is here to stay, and will increase.  The future of leadership, and leadership development, will involve engaging whole leadership populations and enabling the collective leadership capability of groups, teams and business units.  As a leader being a knowledge expert and individual problem solver will become a significantly smaller part of your job profile.  Leaders now need to focus on building relationships in all directions, creating psychological safety and hosting conversations that open up the creative intelligence of the group.  Any leadership development programme in turn needs to be inclusive, bring together leaders from across the organisation and ground learning in the ongoing business agenda.

This is what we do at The Enablers Network.

If you would also like to create your own revolution in leadership development for yourself, your team or your organisation, then give us a call at The Enablers Network and we would welcome the opportunity to talk further with you about Tomorrow’s Leadership.

Ben Clayton-Jolly

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2 Responses to “The Future of Leadership (by Ben Clayton Jolly)”

  1. Great
    Simple approach to reflect on this complex reality
    Once again thanks Ben to share with us

    Reply
    • Thank you Gerson for your comment. It is much appreciated!

      Reply

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