As a new era of business approaches, the spotlight is on how current and future leaders manage the transition to a highly automated world. The role that leaders play today will invariably set the tone for the future of work and lay the framework for how work is done for years to come. However, several reports and studies have shown that leaders today lack the skills that are needed to succeed in the digital economy. It is clear that we cannot rely on traditional leadership roles, skills, models and hierarchies in today’s world.
What are the skills that leaders need and what should these skills accomplish? What are the competencies that the leaders of today and tomorrow require to thrive in today’s disruptive world? In this article, Prof. Bernd Vogel, Professor in Leadership at Henley Business School, United Kingdom and Faculty at FLAME Centre for Executive Education (FCEE) shares the four critical competencies needed for transformation.
Change agent: Guardian, enabler and endorser of transformation
To begin with, leaders of today and tomorrow need to understand and convey the importance of the change that is underway. Leaders need to act as the guardian, enabler and endorser of transforming the organization to make it future-ready. They must design a blueprint for the transition, integrate new tools and technologies in existing business processes, implement reskilling and upskilling programmes for their employees and work towards creating a future that combines the best of human intellect and digital prowess.
Leaders at all levels must orchestrate the transformation portfolio relevant to their teams and focus on creating an innovative work culture that reward experimentation, initiative and creativity. This is an opportunity for leaders to update existing business practices, develop engaging people policies and design an equitable future of work.
Political skill and stakeholder engagement
Leaders need to act as a liaison between the broader business interests, employee expectations and social and environmental concerns in order to engage all relevant stakeholders. They need to take into account the concerns and questions of the senior management, the workforce, the customers and the government. As noted by experts, the top three roles played by leaders in the digital age are providing vision and purpose, creating conditions for people to experiment and empowering people to think differently – all of which need excellent communication and collaboration skills.
While it might seem like a tough task to ensure that expectations of all relevant stakeholders are met, the alternative to leaving them behind is unexpected chaos, disruption and challenges in the future. A good starting point would be to assess the impact of technology on existing processes and chart a map to minimize the negative impact of any disruption. In other words, leaders need to understand the implications of the upcoming transformation on different stakeholders, design a strategy that works for everyone and foster an open, fair and transparent workplace with a strong social and environmental consciousness.
Agility: Mentally destroying your current business success formula
If there’s anything that the past few years have taught us, it is that there is a fundamental change in the way business and work is being done and that no industry is immune from the same. Industry leaders like Google, Microsoft, Uber and Amazon are investing heavily in researching and developing intelligent tools that will rewrite their existing business models.
From self-driving cars to household appliances that communicate with each other using Internet of Things – the way we live and work is about to change significantly; this means that existing business models and process need to be designed from scratch. In order to script a successful future, leaders will have to look beyond their existing industry, business models and operations on the assumption that their success will have entirely new parameters in the future.
Energizing others for a change
Last, but far from least, leaders need to communicate the urgency of change to their team, and get them excited and energized for the new paradigm of work. According to a ‘2018 Centre for Creative Leadership’ report, leadership-led change and having a clear transformative strategy: both are essential to effective digital transformation.
In order to implement new business strategies, models and tools, leaders will need a workforce that is as motivated and excited about the future as they are. This can only be achieved if there is a continuous effort to engage with all the stakeholders. And by systematically addressing their concerns and inhibitions. Leaders need to be able to rally the support of their top management, workforce, business partners and customers to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal and that preparing for the future is a collective goal.
Current and future leaders have a tough task cut out for them. The current generation of leaders need to lay the foundation of digital transformation, and the next generation needs to implement it and carry it forward. This transition is bound to be full of unforeseen challenges, some of which can be avoided by ensuring that no stakeholder is left behind and having innovative business policies in place. A lot is riding on how ably leaders can help us sail through this wave of disruption.
This article is based on a course offered by FLAME University on transformational leadership. For more information about the course, click here.