The present-day business context is unique. Technology is leading to new business models emerging and a rapid reduction in space and time effort of doing things. The skills of today most certainly will not be relevant in a few years.
The only two things that will matter are the ability to learn at pace and the constant pursuit of learning. Leaders who will transition into this new age business environment with the right abilities and tools will create unprecedented opportunities and value for themselves and their teams.
A new age leader is digitally obsessed. Technology is the ultimate unlock for infinite scalability. Many times, as humans, we commit ourselves to repeat mundane procedural overheads, which add drudgery to our lives, limits our productivity and derails us from the path of infinity. Technology obsession is not just confined to the technology leaders, but a principle that each business leader has to imbibe deeply.
It does not entail being a technology geek and knowing the greatest and latest tools always. Instead, it is about a fundamental appreciation of creating more efficiency and removing drudgery. It is about making lives better and easier through simple and elegant technology or better process design. It is a mindset that entails having an innate urge to simplify problems and scale solutions using automation and technology.
A strong “Digital” leader has the following markers:
- They appreciate technology and know why it is the present and the future
- They understand scale
- They can think out of the box and bring unimagined but possible alternatives to the table
- They read and keep themselves abreast with the best ways to leverage technology (AI, ML, Blockchain)
- They are intellectually curious
- They look at nature for inspiration to build technology
- They want to remove inefficiency and drudgery of human effort
Second, a new age leader has a wide range. The range goes beyond roles, hierarchies, geographies, and functions. It requires one to operate at the depth of the front line and width of the global business head at the same time. The change is rapid and tumultuous and a new age leader has to be at the frontier of action so he or she can foresee change and benefit from it.
One needs to be capable of executing a transaction and setting a strategic vision both for high-quality leadership in a new era. It is important for business leaders to spend adequate time not just shadowing frontline but also doing their activities. Operations leaders should run the floor for 30 days in a year. Sales leaders should close transactions themselves. Technology leaders should not forget to code.
Here are some of the markers of a leader with “range”:
- They carve out the time to envision and think at 30,000 feet
- They go micro and execute on the most critical issues
- They play the role of front-line often with the objective of both learning and role modeling
- They believe true learning happens by doing and look for opportunities of doing rather than just managing
- They have the ability to concentrate on single transactions and problems
- They are industrious and diligent about the range of jobs
- They believe keen intellect is more important than functional knowledge most of the times to do a good job
- They often use first principles to approach any problem
Finally, a new age leader needs to bring a “serving” mindset and not a dominating mindset. It is the only path to legitimate leadership and greatness. Leadership is not authority. Leadership is not asking people or ordering people around. The true meaning of leadership is serving. Through service, one gains insight, listening skills, collaboration, empathy, inspiration, persuasion and the ability to truly care for people.
If one truly and humbly cares for people, greatness is certain. If one follows authority to get things done or position to pursue outcomes, then lowness is certain, as one would not develop any skills to lead or grow or ideate or envision.
The markers of great “Servant leaders” are as follows:
- They think long-term
- They are purposeful
- They are simple and non-fussy
- They are highly empathetic and deeply care about their people
- They work well with teams and are not individualistic
- They create an environment of autonomy in their teams
- They are ego-less
- They encourage and support their teams
- They stand by what’s right no matter what because they deeply care
- They are emotional and passionate about their work and impact areas
- They can envision the future and communicate that vision passionately within and outside of their team
The leader of the future is digital, wide-ranged and servile. The culture, work, and challenges that one works with finally mould him/her into a new-age leader. New-age organizations must focus on building a gymnasium to build the leadership muscle of young exceptional folks who are emerging leaders.