What We Want Our Future Leaders To Know

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What will make a future leader successful? I explored this in my piece, *Portrait of a Future Leader, published as part of Upwork’s Work: Reimagined series on Medium. Really getting down to the nitty-gritty of how major workforce trends will affect leaders was exciting. But I don’t know everything.

To move beyond research and hear personal perspectives of my peers, I reached out to my LinkedIn groups to ask them to weigh in. Specifically, I asked:

I would love for you to weigh in— what’s one quality a future leader absolutely must have?

It turns out we have some of the same ideas. Here are five qualities that I believe are imperative for future leaders, and the valuable perspectives of my peers.

1. High Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

What does a leader with a high EQ look like? They’re curious about people they don’t know, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, skilled in active listening, and aware of their own emotional states, enabling them to respond rather than react.

The qualities that indicate a high EQ are also valued by my peers.

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Listening is vital to success, yet few people do it well. It takes a strong person to put aside everything, focus and truly listen to the person who is speaking.

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I appreciate Susan bringing up compassion, a quality that in the past may have been viewed as a weakness in leaders. A teenager recently asked me how to improve his EQ. I told him to practice kindness and compassion.

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You may be asking, isn’t a high EQ important for our current leaders? Yes, it is very important. But in the future, organizations will not be as centralized, and hierarchy will diminish in importance. Leaders will be constantly creating and dismantling teams to complete projects, which requires a strong understanding of building and maintaining relationships.

Another important part of relationship building and maintenance is being a proponent of a purpose-driven strategy and culture.

2. Proponent of a Purpose-Driven Strategy and Culture

Purpose at work is a major driver for the future of work. Leaders will measure success on more than profit and loss.

Last year, Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, wrote in The Guardian that we’re “experiencing the rise of the fourth economy in our history, in which a sense of purpose is recognized as a critical human need and driver of innovation.”

He explained that this critical human need was sacrificed in the industrial and technological economies in order to maximize efficiency and scale.

So how does a future leader create a purpose-drive strategy and culture? It starts with valuing more than just profit. He or she must also prioritize the personal development of employees, along with the sense of purpose that each employee embodies, all while continuing to focus on tangible deliverables like targeted goals and bottom-line commitments.

Personal development is also a key to being a successful future leader. The desire to learn is a must.

3. Lifelong Learning

We’ve all witnessed how quickly technology has changed the fabric of our world. The increasing global pace of growth only adds to that rapid-fire change. In order to keep pace, a leader must be constantly learning. Whether this happens in the form of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) or peer-to-peer information exchange is irrelevant. What matters is that the leader of the future wants to learn on a continual basis and prioritizes this need for education.

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 I agree with Kathleen. Yet many leaders say they don’t have time to learn new skills. So how can organizations instill a sense of constant learning in the cultural DNA? This is an important question to answer as we move into the future of work.

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Learning goes beyond mastering the latest technology trends. The demographic makeup of the future workforce is going to be different, requiring leaders to learn to be more culturally aware and able to eliminate bias and discrimination.

4. Diverse to the Core

Future leaders are not straight, white and male by default. So say goodbye to ‘pale, male and stale’ and hello to diversity.

Today, only 3.8% of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are minorities. This, despite minorities making up a full 36% of the American workforce. In the future, what we consider minorities will be the majority of consumers, clients, employees, and leaders. This requires that the leaders of the future understand their diverse employees and consumers.

5. Entrepreneurial Mindset

Our new workforce will function as more of an ecosystem than a pyramid, so leaders of the future need to have an entrepreneurial mindset; they need to be agile and innovative. Their ability to pivot, pull teams together quickly, and exhibit out-of-the-box thinking will influence their success in a decentralized structure that is constantly evolving

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Jennifer and Paul make a good point. Part of being entrepreneurial is pulling together people who will fill the gaps in your abilities, inspire you, and take you to the next level. There is no room for feeling threatened in the future of work. Entrepreneurs need to be too good to ignore.

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Outside of the five qualities I believe exemplify our future leaders, Mike brings a valid quality to the table.

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Leaders of the future will be facing an exciting and ever-evolving workplace and economic landscape. If they do not belief in themselves, they will become daunted with all of the change happening around them. A leader needs to create a vision that people believe in and want to contribute to. That takes confidence.

There’s a tsunami of change ahead but the changes will deeply enrich the culture of organizations. With a high EQ, purpose-driven motivation, love of learning, deep interest in diversity, and an entrepreneurial mindset, the leaders of the future will surely thrive.

Now it’s your turn.  What’s one quality a future leader absolutely must have? I can’t wait to continue the discussion. Tell us your ideas in the comment section below, via email, or let’s discuss via Twitter.

*To learn more about the future of work and the leaders that will come with it, check out the original article on Medium –> Portrait of a Future Leader

For a fun comparison, check out what we want our current leaders to know.

 

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