Dawn of a New Era of Leadership

4 Critical Competencies for Tomorrow’s Leaders Today 

At the beginning of the century, Ray Kurzweil, Futurist and Chief Engineer at Google, predicted that 20,000 years of progress would be crammed into the next 100 years. Since then progress has accelerated even faster than anyone thought possible. Tremendous social, political, economic and environmental forces have radically reshaped the world of work as we know it.

Disruptive innovations are creating new sectors and new technologies are having a huge impact on how we communicate, collaborate and create. The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 company has gone down from 67 years in 1937 to 18 years in 2011.

As generations collide, workforces become more diverse, and people work longer hours, which means traditional career models are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Businesses across the world are beginning to understand that a significant shift in mind-set is needed to stay competitive in tomorrow’s market. Leadership is a critical driver.

This article explores 4 fundamental characteristics of the leader of the future and the steps to ensure you can become a next generation executive.

The aim is to equip you with the tools and strategies to take a longer, more rounded view of your capacity to positively shape the changes that are inevitable, as we enter a new era of leadership.



Peter Drucker once said: “The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask”.

Leadership in the new world is beyond external tags and titles. Leaders of this world need to model the behaviour they seek, help build their people, design work that taps into potential and lead through influence, not authority.

Looking into the future, the primary role of a leader will be to create more leaders. As such, authority and decision-making will be more widely and deeply dispersed, both laterally and vertically, giving individual employees an opportunity to showcase their expertise in specific areas of a company.

The reason is clear. It is becoming harder for any one person to be the ultimate expert in all aspects of their work expectations. Focus is key. This is true in a wide variety of contexts. In the future there will be an increased need for managing “knowledge workers”. Answers will be sought from those who have an in-depth insight of a particular area of an operation, and not from the person in the leadership role.

Traditional hierarchical structures are fading to make way for purposeful networks, with communities of people working together to achieve a shared purpose.

Shared Leadership enables the freedom to work on growing an operation. It makes employees feel more like partners, with a vested interest to become more engaged. This ultimately paves the way to greater success for an organisation, the team and ultimately for employees as individuals.

To prepare for the future, organisations must give young people leadership assignments, as well as training and the necessary coaching to develop and grow. According to Deloitte’s Millennial 2017 Survey, leadership training remains a high priority for millennials globally.  As Deloitte describes it, we must build a corporate lattice, not a corporate ladder. Millennials grew up in glass houses and they are very comfortable with transparency.  They believe leadership should be the same. According to the Deloitte research, when asked what they look for in their leaders, it was clear that they want openness, inclusion and diversity.

Some CEO’s have already taken this on board with 74% placing a greater importance on trust, values and culture according to the new KPMG Disrupt and Grow 2017 Global CEO Outlook.

Adopting a shared leadership approach now, may make the transition later much easier.



In today’s world, dormant technology means falling behind. Across all industries world-wide, from consumer goods to media, manufacturing and financial services, companies are opting to go “digital.”  In order to have the competitive edge, companies have to outsmart their rivals, work faster and be more productive than ever before. Achieving that goal requires a mastery of both people and machinery, ultimately transforming the way organisations turn knowledge into action.

Digitisation is not just about technology, however. Even access to the best tech doesn’t guarantee success. Companies must have the right mix of talent to lead and execute successful transformation.

In the 2017 KPMG Disrupt and Grow Global CEO Outlook, only 65% of CEO’s stated that they were effective at sensing market signals and 65% saw technological advancements as opportunities and not as threats.

The leaders that will be in demand in the future will need a solid understanding of how to get the best out of both people and machinery. They will need the foresight and ability to motivate teams, whilst creatively re-designing the road into the future.

If you are already a tech savvy and people-focused leader, then you will be relatively stress-free. However, if not, it’s important to assess your skills set and see where you can improve in both these areas.

This means if you are currently more of a tech-savvy leader, you will have to develop your people skills to create greater engagement and loyalty from your team. If you are more of a people focused leader, you must up your tech skills to become a more effective leader that connects with the skill sets of your team members. It’s the only way you will stay on top of the innovation boom shaping the world around you.



To make sense of changing trends, practices and expectations, leaders need to collaborate relentlessly. Alliances between companies, whether they are from different parts of the world or different ends of the supply chain, are not only a fact of business life today, but an essential ingredient for surviving tomorrow.

Leaders of the future need to be good at finding, growing and managing business relationships. This means building alliances within the company and outside the company, with customers, consumers, suppliers and competitors. In the decades to come businesses will either be part of an alliance or competing with one.

Strategic alliances are necessary for many reasons, from building credibility to sharing costs or enabling growth. Small no longer needs to be a disadvantage.

According to Unitec research, this is particularly important for the New Zealand market. Businesses here are often constrained by the small domestic market, the great distance from major markets and struggles to access capital. All of which serve as impediments to growth. According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 97% of all enterprises in New Zealand are made up of 20 employees or less.

In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in strategic alliances. A prime example was Massey University and The Institute of Management New Zealand who joined forces in 2016 to offer one of the country’s most comprehensive suites of management courses.

A successful alliance is based on finding the right partner, setting firm ground rules, and communicating well. Relationships, and very importantly trust, must be established; pilot projects must be conducted; financial returns and other outcomes must be measured so that allies gain the confidence to help achieve measurable change.



The rapidly changing work context is like a treadmill that compels leaders to learn in a self-directed mode. To survive the future, leaders need to constantly be curious, open to learn new things and give up familiar approaches that no longer work.

The leaders of tomorrow need to have the foresight to “create change” proactively, before external changes forces them to merely react. The only way to anticipate change is through inquisitiveness, collaboration and learning.

Research has long shown that successful leaders continually develop and grow. The ability to learn throughout one’s career appears to be increasingly more important due to the complexity of the ever-changing environment that’s shaping tomorrow.

What is needed to succeed at one level or in one setting, does not necessarily translate into another. In fact, over the long term, your current skill-set will be of secondary importance. It will be your ability to learn new skills, enlarge your knowledge base and increase your curiosity to constructively respond to future challenges.

According to the new 2017 KPMG Disrupt and Grow Global CEO Outlook, over 68% of CEO’s have undertaken training or completed new qualifications during the past 12 months, which is a step in the right direction.

So how do you gauge your level of learning agility? What does it take to be an agile learner?

According to the Harvard Business Review, learning requires an open and receptive mind-set. Expertise and competence are the dividends of experience, but it could make you myopic in your inability to see different, potentially better ways to improve processes or even reach new goals.

Agile learners are not afraid to challenge the status quo. They see every challenge as an opportunity for growth. They learn from the past, reflect on and analyse the experiences shaping their future.

To prepare for the future, organizations must encourage, support and make time for employees to upskill and learn.

According to Harvard Business Review, learners need to be engaged and inspired by the learning process to embed knowledge. Experiences of high interest and urgency can increase motivation to learn.

The good news is that most organizations already understand the benefits of continued improvement.

According to the 2017 Massey University and IMNZ Executive Education Survey, the vast majority of NZ respondents felt that executive education had a positive impact on productivity and definitely boosted the bottom-line. At least two-fifths of each staff group in places of employment in NZ and Australasia were considered ‘very likely’ to be included in people development plans, which a step forward in the right direction.



To prepare for the future, companies should look at investing in a new leadership system that can effectively train all levels of employees, from the inexperienced to the more accomplished.

Leadership still remains the NO.1 talent issue facing organisations today. According to the Deloittte Human Capital Survey, companies frequently say they want to strengthen their leadership pipeline, yet research shows that corporate leadership capabilities are dropping.

IMNZ CEO Steven Naudé believes this is because 21st century leadership is vastly different; it goes beyond only mastering business skills. “To help companies close the gap between the hype and readiness, we have specifically designed ACCELERATE, a transformational leadership programme that moves away from old-style thinking into the new era of transformational leadership.”

Mr Naudé believes tomorrow’s leaders need to have an entrepreneurial mind-set, understand the intricacies of good people skills and be self-aware.



By Armela Hajderaj

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