Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
Our world of business is changing fast. Leaders are expected to act quickly and definitively. The old ways of doing things are changing quickly. The leaders need to acknowledge the change and adapt swiftly. They have to inspire the layers of leadership beneath them to embrace the changes and succeed in dealing with the evolving reality. This is easier said than done. Which dimensions are likely to be crucial for success as a leader in the times ahead?
We are witnessing rapid changes in technology which are disrupting the ways of life and thus making certain skills and jobs irrelevant and at the same time, creating a demand for new skills. This starts huge ripple effects in myriad fields of life starting from education in the schools and colleges to the kind of machines and tools we need to manufacture products. New materials and applications are available to mankind to make their lives easier and better.
Agriculture to services, every sector is seeing the use of new methods, machines, tools and inputs. Farmers, technicians, teachers, nurses, doctors, chefs, truck drivers, engineers, lawyers and politicians – name a profession, every job is undergoing a change. People are talking about using artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, blockchain, robotics, nanotechnology, gene mapping, 3D printing and many more. In another decade, we will see some more new technologies and their applications. We might see a slowdown in one field but there will be burgeoning innovation in another.
Irrespective of the domain, a leader has to keep a track of what’s new and what else can be done. One has to prepare accordingly!
As humankind is making progress, the economic situation of each person and family is improving. At the same time, the flow of information has become a lot seamless and democratic. Aspirations of individuals to consume more products and services have been on the rise. This socio-economic change is getting accelerated every passing year.
For the next few decades, we do not expect a plateau in this behaviour. Hence, leaders need to recognise this and be innovative at a pace faster than ever before. They have to be building the culture of innovation to thrive in the days ahead. Every company aspiring to lead its sector has to be adopting the practices that the world’s most innovative companies follow.
We will see more technology and human-machine collaboration to make our lives enriching and meaningful. Factories and offices will increasingly go digital and automated; however, enterprises will make progress with human beings and leaders are going to manage them. Will there be some changes in the way human beings take responsibility, deliver results and decide to walk the extra mile?
Basic qualities of human beings are not likely to change. Hence, adults will continue to love freedom and independence; they will continue to appreciate trust and faith posed on them; they will continue to have a need for achievement and recognition. They would love to add value and grow as human beings so that others respect them. Human beings will have intellect, ego and a range of emotions. They love being listened to, empathised with and coached to reach their full potential. A leader has to know how to leverage all this knowledge in his or her actions and behaviours so that the people working in the enterprise work harmoniously and effectively.
Machines and technology can automate processes and bring in speed, accuracy, reliability and comfort for the men and women working in a factory. However, they cannot define the way of life in the organisation. They cannot decide the vision and the strategic plans for the company. A leader has to not only devise the plans but also communicate the same and involve his or her workforce in it. Given the social changes, a leader has to know how to involve and engage the members of the team in these critical activities. This is no different from what a leader does now. However, this is a significant aspect of evolving as a leader for the future because the methods used today may not work tomorrow.
There are multiple paths to the destination. Based on the path chosen by the leader, the journey gets defined and the experiences gathered along the way define the success or failure of the leader. Like Mother Theresa said, a leader must cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.
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