The Fundamentals of Tomorrow’s Leadership, the Basics with a Twist

Guest post from Fiona Murden:

In
1998 I graduated from business school feeling I knew all there was to know
about leadership. I began work as a management consultant and much of what I’d
learnt was very quickly thrown out of the window. The basics of behaviour tell
us far more than the latest fad. I became obsessed with observing like a
detective, working out what, why and how. In fact, I was so fascinated that I soon
returned to university to complete an MSc in Business Psychology.
Since
then I have profiled and coached leaders from across the world. I have lived
their journeys with them and while I’ve not bourn the scars or failure (nor
shared in the rewards of success!) in their entirety, I have assessed and predicted
who would fail, who would succeed. I’ve worked hand in hand with leaders who
have struggled and those who have flourished.
With
this experience in tow I returned to those original learnings to re-assess
their relevance. What I’ve found is that it really isn’t the latest cutting-edge
idea that’s most relevant, rather the foundations taught as long ago as philosophers
such as Lao Tzu in 600BC that have stood the test of time.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Whilst
we may now add in ‘he or she’ into this quote today, people are people and as
the human brain has evolved very little (if at all) over the centuries the
fundamentals of good leadership have also remained largely unchanged. What
threatened people then, will threaten today, what motivated then, will motivate
today. What is however changing is the rate of change itself and the volume of
data leaders and followers have to deal with. As a result, those critical
aspects of good leadership become even more important. They act as an anchor
from which to weather the storm of a turbulent world and the foundation from
which to build on new knowledge.
Hence,
I believe the fundamentals of good leadership are as true today as they ever
were, but with a twist:
1.    Resilience. Leaders have always needed
be resilient but what that means is changing. A generation ago resilience meant
continuing no matter what: sleeping under the desk, not sleeping at all, skipping
vacations, taking calls from a hospital bed. There’s still a badge of honour
associated with carrying on in spite of pressure but this sort of behaviour was
never sustainable (Arianna Huffington openly talks about this) and is arguably
becoming even less so. As a leader of
tomorrow there is a need for constant flex to your own physical and emotional needs,
being hyper aware, understanding what energises and what drains, carefully managing
of life and duties and giving permission for others to warn you when you become
blindsided by stress creeping up on you.
2.    Curiosity
for Agility
.
We have an increasing understanding of how ‘plastic’ our brain is, even into
later age. Until recently we believed many aspects of our personality were
fixed and were unconsciously encouraged to approached life accordingly. However,
as a leader of tomorrow, understanding
this plasticity means that it is never too late to change or grow, to seek out
opportunities, to learn, to flex to a new way of working and to adapt to the
changing world around you. Remaining open and curious allows you to embrace
unpredictable situations rather than being thrown off track by them.
3.    Building
High Performing Teams
.
All too often top teams are made up of high performing individuals working in
silos which is then reflected down through the organisation. This approach massively
limits the potential of the whole organisation, restricting the ability to flex
and quickly respond to the demands of the fast-moving world. As a leader of tomorrow, it will become ever
more critical to understand how to build and enable truly high performing teams
that challenge ‘bricks and mortar’ organisation structures and ways of working.
You will need this to allow for optimal agility and to fully leverage the
collective capability of employees throughout the organisation.
4.
Communicating Vision. The priority of this point is
increasing exponentially with the ambiguity of the world around us. As humans we
become emotionally and intellectually stifled in times of uncertainty. This
results in employees feeling threatened and disengaged. As a leader of tomorrow, it will therefore be imperative to articulate
the vision with clarity and passion, really connecting with the audience. This
will allow people to feel a sense of unity, purpose and comfort that enables
them to engage and perform at their optimum. As a leader it allows you to safely
provide freedom to employees on how they work, empowering people to achieve in
a way that is best suited to their own strengths, approach and personality.

The
enabler of all of these is not only an increasing knowledge of behaviour and
how best to leverage it, but also the presence of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
working alongside that understanding. Many see AI as a threat but it’s also an
amazing opportunity. A McKinsey article published in April 2018, for example says
that AI ‘creates space and time to think by filtering the signal from the noise’.
As a leader, letting algorithms work on the increasing volumes of data that you
are expected to deal with, the aspects which are creating the constant flux and
overload will mean that AI can ‘report back only what you need to know and when
you need to know it.’ If used effectively both as a leader and employee, it
could free up the brain from a huge amount of unnecessary processing and
decision making. This will allow focus on the behavioural aspects for leaders
who embrace AI to flourish in the landscape of tomorrow.
So,
to be a great leader of tomorrow, don’t look to the latest fad or claim, return
to the basics as your foundations to remaining agile, then leverage what the
future world is offering. 
Fiona Murden is a Chartered Psychologist,
Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, best-selling author and
stimulating public speaker who has spent the past eighteen years working with
leaders of multi-national companies. She is also founder and MD of Aroka Ltd
which she has run globally for the past 11 years.  Aroka profiles senior leaders in the UK, USA,
Europe and Asia Pacific to assess their fit, strengths and the risks in
relation to the role that they are being hired for. Her speaking commitments
take her into boardrooms as diverse as the Institute of Directors, the Cabinet
Office, the Royal College of Surgeons, Lloyd’s of London, The City Women’s
Network and Nomura.
Fiona’s
book, Defining
You
was published worldwide in 2018. Defining You opens a window
into the process of psychological profiling in business and presents a clear
path to improving your effectiveness with immediate actions and tangible
tips.