Let’s face reality. We know that choosing the right leaders for our organization is a key priority. We know that leaders have the power to make our people stay or leave, make our cultures healthy or toxic, and make or break our business. We also know that consistency, job, and culture fit and the ability to adjust to change are some of the most important characteristics of good leadership for tomorrow’s organization.
Why, then, are there so many outdated leadership practices in our organizations? Why are we accepting practices that build distance between what we know is good leadership and how our leaders actually lead? How can we bridge this gap?
We delved into a deep discussion with eleven senior HR leaders and experts from six different industries to explore the qualities of tomorrow’s leaders and how we should be identifying, developing, and encouraging them. The following presents the highlights of our discussion.
1. Are Your Leaders Equipped with Skills to Lead for Tomorrow, or for Today?
Our HR leaders agreed that flatter organizations, emerging generations, and technological innovation are having an impact on required leadership skills. The most effective leaders are able to adapt quickly to this new, fast-changing, global environment. More and more, leaders need to facilitate, rather than dictate. They need to encourage and even celebrate the diverse contribution of people’s ideas, with no set processes in mind. When selecting your leaders, to ensure they have what it takes to lead today and tomorrow, our HR experts recommend you explore the following attributes.
Our panel of HR leaders felt that younger generations look for leaders who are self-aware and inclusive. However, the consensus is that many leaders are not highly self-aware. Self-awareness is an ongoing process that requires commitment and consistency. It’s like a muscle. In order to stay strong and flexible, it needs to be fed and exercised every day, all while facilitating opportunities for the development of others’ self-awareness. Studies support this, as teams with highly self-aware members consistently outperform teams with members with low self-awareness on several team performance factors (Dierdorff and Rubin, 2015).
Organizations are witnessing a rise in anxiety and depression among employees. We’re seeing higher turnover, low stress tolerance, and difficulty managing workload, which calls for leaders needing both resilience and the ability to cultivate resilience in others. Knowing that good self-management begins with understanding our capabilities and mindset, the importance of self-awareness takes on its full meaning.
Some experts anticipate that the generation following the millennials will return to more traditional values and models of resilience. In the meantime, we need leaders who can build self-awareness and resilience in themselves and in others.
The Ability to Provide Honest, Difficult, and Meaningful Feedback
It was agreed among our panel of HR leaders that one of the most important competencies for leaders is the ability to have honest, difficult, and transparent conversations. The inability to effectively dialogue leads to a lack of role clarity, increased workplace toxicity, and lower job performance. Enabling leaders to take a coaching mindset and increasing their levels of social and conversational intelligence to handle difficult conversations across generational cohorts will be key to creating engaging cultures. Unless we effectively address this challenge, it will inhibit the organization’s ability to deal with current and future generations and minimize productivity and well-being (Dierdorff and Rubin, 2015).
The Ability to Receive Honest, Difficult, Meaningful Feedback
There is an art to giving feedback, but also an art to receiving feedback. If your leaders haven’t been taught how to receive feedback, that feedback can be ineffective, even when they’ve asked for it. Not enough time is spent coaching individuals on how to receive feedback in a meaningful way. Make this a priority for developing tomorrow’s leaders, and you will instill a more positive organizational culture while creating more effective teams.
Agility in Adapting to Their Environment
Agility is one of the top predictors of effective leadership for transitioning into tomorrow’s world. If you ask 10 leaders what agility means, you get 10 different answers. Some refer to interpersonal flexibility, others refer to adaptability and the ability to cope effectively with change, while yet others talk about the ability to lead change. Define this competency for your business environment and use it as a benchmark for selecting tomorrow’s leaders.
Leaders with the Ability to Manage Across Functions, Regions, and Territories
Globalization is here to stay and will be even more important in tomorrow’s world. Today’s leaders need the ability to work collaboratively and remotely and to build relationships without the in-person reliance that once prevailed. The ability to work cross-functionally and bring teams together is essential (Grégoire and Harvey, 2015).
2. Do You Have Talent Acquisition Processes that Have Evolved Past Yesterday?
We are in a state of flux when it comes to talent acquisition. People no longer recruit just to fill a seat. They find great people through networking and creating employment opportunities for great talent. Recruitment tools have expanded tremendously and are no longer geographically limited.
From an HR perspective, this adds a tremendous challenge with respect to compliance, recruitment processes, and management. Many argue that, unfortunately, their current assessment processes have not evolved enough to meet this demand. We are still using the same tools. We are doing more virtually, but we haven’t sufficiently adapted our practices.
3. Are Your Recruitment and Assessment Practices Growing as Fast as the World Around You?
Our HR panel unanimously felt that younger generations want to feel that people are trying to create a welcoming space and experience, during selection and recruitment. This is tomorrow’s need. However, today’s practices are entrenched in the recruitment process, and we put people in rooms and assess the heck out of them! The process is lengthy, arduous, and sometimes disengaging. To tackle these challenges, we need to make the assessment process a faster, more memorable, and enjoyable experience. This will help build the employer brand.
4. Does Your Organizational Culture Support or Reject Tomorrow’s Leaders?
Tomorrow’s leaders need to focus on team and cultural fit. When we assess individuals during the recruitment process, we’re assessing a tremendous amount of information: from individual motivation to core professional skills, both technical and interpersonal. Where and how does culture fit? Most of us have experienced the onboarding of a fantastic individual who demonstrated all the right characteristics and skills. Yet, three to six months into a new role, we may learn that the fit between the organization and the culture is not what we thought it would be. Our HR experts spoke about the increasing relevance of assessing and exploring fit between the person and the organizational culture. In fact, cultural fit may have become a key prognostic indicator for a long-term and fruitful match between people and businesses. In today’s diverse and fast changing global world, all stakeholders, leaders, HR, employees, and job seekers need to get on board with having transparent and authentic conversations about the culture puzzle. When pieces don’t fit, we feel it and we see it in all areas of performance. The time is ripe for incorporating the person-culture fit in our recruitment process.
Stewardship of tomorrow’s organizations will require HR and business leaders to take a hard look at whether and how their current recruitment and selection practices for leaders are setting them up for success. The consideration of person-organization fit, the ability to be self-aware and resilient, and having the social intelligence to facilitate effective two-way feedback conversations will necessitate new approaches to assessing leadership talent. Harnessing advances in technology and human potential assessment practices will enable HR leaders to ensure they are identifying the best leaders for tomorrow.
Dierdorff, E. C. and Rubin, R. S. (2015). Research: We’re Not Very Self-Aware, Especially at Work. Retrieved at https://hbr.org/2015/03/research-were-not-very-self-aware-especially-at-work
Folkman, J. (2017). You Can Take It! How To Accept Negative Feedback With Ease. Retrieved at https://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2017/12/05/you-can-take-it-how-to-accept-negative-feedback-with-ease/#a4bc01723a73
Grégoire, J. and Harvey, S.-P. (2015). Leadership DNA Decoded: Four Talent Analytics Studies.