Is the strong leader of today well-suited to be an effective leader in the future? What does he or she need to know to succeed in the coming years, and how do they need to change?

Futurist Jacob Morgan, author of the new book The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade, is our guide through the six vital trends that he believes leaders need to know.

Trends shaping the future of leadership Jacob Morgan post Jan 2020Trends shaping the future of leadership Jacob Morgan post Jan 2020Trends shaping the future of leadership Jacob Morgan post Jan 2020

In the first part of this two-part post, we addressed three of those trends: automation, the pace of change, and the purpose and meaning of work. Today we look at the final three trends.

Leadership trend #3 – The new talent landscape

There is a serious shortage of skilled talent in many industries today, and the gap between what a company needs and what is available will only grow in the coming years. That calls for a new way of looking at how organizations can get things done.

One resource could be older workers. By 2030, Morgan notes, one out of every five U.S. residents will be of retirement age. Too many organizations, he says, are nudging their older workers out the door in favor of younger and less-generously-paid employees. Often these older workers have vast knowledge of the industry and the company that can be highly valuable.

Pushing these workers out, Morgan insists, “is a huge mistake. Leaders need to start figuring out how to retain these older workers, who can be the coaches, the mentors, the sages inside of an organization.”

There are other important strategies as well. One is to foster an inclusive and motivating work culture and physical space where employees enjoy working and want to show up each day. Another is to concentrate on upskilling and retraining employees, providing appropriate workforce productivity and mobile office tools, leveraging data, analytics, and an understanding of what is coming in the future to continuously improve their ability to contribute to organizational objectives.

“Ultimately it is the organizations that can attract and retain the best talent that will thrive in the future, and leaders are not going to be able to do that unless they understand how talent is changing,” Morgan says.

Leadership trend #4 – Morality, ethics, and transparency

 Newer generations of workers particularly like to work for companies that do the right thing. They don’t flock to companies that cut corners, falsify public information, or cheat in some way. So not only are strong morals and ethics good virtues on their own, but they help a company attract caring, enthusiastic people.

Leaders need to be transparent regarding what they believe in, and why. Traditionally, Morgan says, leaders tried to be “neutral,” not particularly taking sides and preferring to stay under the radar when it came to sensitive or divisive issues. That doesn’t really work anymore.

“In the world we live in now, leaders need to make it very clear what their morals are and what they stand for, and they need to do this in a transparent way. Yes, morality is subjective and not everybody will agree, but the important thing is that those who work for and with you understand what your morals are and why,” he explains.

Transparency also means being open about the organization and its business. Employees are more motivated when they understand what is going on and how it is impacting them and vice versa. Good leaders don’t hide things and then surprise employees with something negative.

Leadership trend #5 – Globalization 

Despite it being an industry buzzword for some time now, “globalization” is truly going to be one of the trends that shape the next decade when it comes to leadership.

“Globalization is basically making the world a smaller place,” Morgan says. “That means the language you speak, the currency you use, where you are located, and your culture will no longer be barriers to doing business in any part of the world.”

As a result, everything in business, from people to ideas to technology, information, and more, will be increasingly dynamic, flowing back and forth, from one corner of the world to another in the click of a mouse. In this environment, the successful leader will need to experience leading in different parts of the world. That is a key to understanding the global picture of their business and what the macro trends mean to them.

As one CEO quoted in Morgan’s book put it, “You can’t lead a world-size organization unless you have a world-size mindset.”

That, Morgan says, is ultimately what globalization means. A leader must have that big-picture, globally-encompassing way of looking at and thinking about the world, precisely because things are moving so quickly.

The leadership challenge

Another challenge for leaders in facing these trends is understanding how well they are doing. In an extensive survey for his new book, Morgan queried 14,000 employees around the world about the people who lead them. What he found was a huge gap between how well the leaders thought they were doing and the perceptions among their employees.

“Leaders need to know that perception is their reality. It doesn’t matter what you think, because if the people who work for you think you’re not ready to face this future, you aren’t,” Morgan declares.

How can a leader close that gap? It comes back to transparency. Morgan recommends that leaders help their employees to always be aware of the actions they take and why. Too often leaders operate in a bubble, not sharing or communicating with their people as they should.

Part of casting a vision and motivating people to work toward that vision is informing them about their progress along the way and all the things being done to further the organization’s objectives.