The digital revolution or the era of connectivity is not somewhere out there. It is upon us! This new revolution will arguably have a greater impact than any of the three revolutions before it.
The emergence of quantum computing, robotics, A I and machine learning for example, present us with huge challenges and even greater possibilities. “There has never been a time of greater promise or greater peril”, according to the chair and founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab.
In my training and coaching work with leaders in NI and around the world, I see the need to properly position ourselves for this new normal. I would suggest that the leaders we need will be defined by the ability to respond out of a clear vision and with agility, rapidly engaging and aligning empowered and networked teams with clarity of purpose and a steely resolve to deliver results.
Undoubtedly robotics, A I and machines will replace the need for many of the jobs currently in existence. Take health as just one example. By 2030, it is highly likely we will be able to scan our own DNA and dispense our own pills from our 3D printer at home! More widely, it is probable that 40% of the world’s leading companies, may not exist in a meaningful way in the next 10 – 15 years, according to a former CEO of Cisco. However, rather than dreading or fearing this great disruption, we need to recognise that many more new and different jobs will replace the existing ones. Certainly, a time of unprecedented opportunity, a time for the emergence of a different kind of leadership.
Perhaps the key challenge for leaders will be to adapt their leadership styles in order to successfully combine the human and machine workforce. Utilizing tech innovations to increase productivity while simultaneously complimenting important traits of human nature, namely, creativity, innovation and imagination. As leaders of the new normal we will be required to not only juggle, but effectively exploit the benefits of the human/machine intelligence combination.
I would suggest there are 4 critical areas for increased leadership capability as we move forward.
1. VISION– The disposition and willingness to see the bigger, changing picture– The commitment to communicate a consistent, clear and compelling cause– Willingness to embrace an inclusive, expansive, societal and global orientation
2. UNDERSTANDING– Increased levels of emotional intelligence. “We need leaders who are emotionally intelligent,able to model co-operative working. They’ll coach rather than command, they’ll be driven by empathy not ego. The digital revolution needs a different, more human kind of leadership.” (Klaus Schwab)– Inter cultural and inter-generational intelligence– Resilience and mental toughness
3. CLARITY– Authentic leaders who embody and promote accountability– Leaders who are purposeful, principled and values-driven– Leaders committed to clarity of expectation and an unapologetic focus on execution
4. AGILITY– Leaders who choose flexibility, embracing and celebrating change– Leaders who encourage and facilitate hyper-connected and virtual teams that are empowered sothat initiative and decision-making thrive– The leader need not be the tech expert, rather the ‘conductor’ who ensures that the right talentis in the right place, with the right tools
In conclusion, there is so much more to be optimistic about than to fear, but leaders need to be the champions and the role-models for this new normal. There is too much to gain! The choice is stark and succinctly put by a former CEO of GE, a wake-up call for leaders. “If the outside environment is changing faster than the inside – the end is in sight” (J Welsh)
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