Last week, we talked about the impact of automation on the labour market. We saw that in the future a lot of jobs will be replaced by robots, algorithms and artificial intelligence. Most industries will be heavily automated in the future and virtually every mundane or repetitive job will be replaced. Even more high-skilled jobs that involve math and data can be done by machines.
But does this mean that nobody will work anymore soon? That’s not very likely. Because many people actually *like* working, there will still be new business models and new products still, new marketing schemes and new technological breakthroughs. And even in an economy driven by technology, companies will still be in need of competent leaders, maybe even more so than before.
What are the skills that leaders need to bring to the table in this new environment?
1. Future Skill: Social Intelligence
Social Intelligence enables us to “effectively navigate and negotiate complex social relationships and environments”. At least that’s the gist on the Wikipedia. It means that socially intelligent people are able to correctly judge the emotions of their co-workers and choose the right words and gestures in the right situations. Human emotion is complex, and while deep learning enables artificial intelligence to make big progress in the field of emulating emotional intelligence, it is still up for debate whether computers will ever truly understand emotions or even be able to develop “real” social skills.
This is a competitive advantage humans won’t lose for some time. And especially for leaders, social intelligence is a very important skill. Because good leadership requires us develop good relationships with our employees. People skills make for effective leaders, because they help to motivate or to win over the people who are being lead. They won’t follow due to fear or extrinsic motivational tools like money. At least not for long. Studies have shown that emotionally intelligent leaders have a positive impact on their companies’ profits.
2. Future Skill: Cross-Cultural Competence
Cross-cultural competence is important for an individual to operate in intercultural settings. It is extremely important in the work environments of the future, and even of today. In our globalised world we use the internet for the bulk of our communication needs and fly to locations and foreign nations to do our business. This means that corporations, teams as well as the cooperation between individuals become more and more international. Therefore future leaders need to be competent in dealing with members of other cultures in order to effectively steer them towards the common goal.
There is some overlap between social intelligence and cross-cultural competence. However, the latter exceeds the former and has some very rational aspects. It involves a good deal of knowledge about how to bring together teams of diverse members, by rallying them around shared goals, pointing out similar values and communicating priorities in a way that the individuals will appreciate.
Research shows that diverse teams perform better because more ideas and perspectives are being shared when working towards a goal. Thus leaders are well advised to form diverse teams and also to know how to lead them in the best way possible.
3. Future Skills: Adaptability, Creativity and Openness to Criticism
They say that constant transformation is the new normal. And they are right. Many companies (and countries!) are still dealing with the ramifications of digitisation, while others already implement robots into their workforce. Meanwhile, Artificial Intelligence is making leaps every month and we don’t know yet where the boundaries of machine learning may lie. Science and technology still make lots of progress, be it in the field of genetic research, space travel or astrophysics. The economy also is in a constant state of change. Customers can order anywhere, anytime, just-in-time, and they want their individualised products. New tech companies spring up like mushrooms proposing new business models in the growing sharing-economy.
In this envorenment it is important for companies to stay as agile as possible. Your old business model doesn’t work? Change it! See an opportunity to expand to a new market? Do it! Nobody buys your product? Sell something else! So many companies are afraid of shaking things up, even though it is essential to stay competitive now, and it will be even more so in the future. And most of the time, it’s the leaders that stand in the way of change. Perhaps they are the people who built the company from scratch and are nostalgically attached to their old ways. Maybe they are afraid of the shareholders. Or maybe they are just bad leaders, who create a toxic work environment that kills creativity and the free expression of new ideas.
In an ever-changing business world where you can be disrupted at any given moment, organisations have to be able to adapt quickly. So leaders need to be open to the possibility of change. And that means being self-critical, constantly scrutinising and questioning the big picture and the company’s course, as well as listening to employees, be it from marketing, market research, product development, product management or customer relations. They also have to be able to see new possibilities to expand their business model and enter new markets by applying their old expertise and assets to them. Take a company like Xerox for example. The company once famous for the first photocopier is now all about workflow and process automation, helping their B2B customers become more productive and efficient by digitising paper-based routines. Are they disrupting there own business model doing this? For sure! And they are doing it very successfully. Talk about a reinvention.
Originally we wanted to put a longer list in this blog post, but as it has become quite a read already, we shall continue next week! We hope some of the topics we touched will inspire you when tackling your upcoming endeavours!