Leader’s Kitbag – Jan 2020
Welcome to leading in the 2020s!
It’s time to usher in a whole new decade of leadership. Are you ready for what’s instore for us all?
Well here we are. 2020. Welcome a new decade of leadership!
I’m anticipating is that in the 2020s we are going to see some major shifts in the landscape of leadership. At the very beginning of this new decade, I think it appropriate to reflect on a few of them here, with you all. To do so in this edition of the Leader’s Kitbag, I’d like to evolve our regular content format somewhat, as I set out that I consider to be some of the major themes that are going to impact on leadership in the 10 years to 2030, whilst continuing to provide a selection of items to suit your time and format preferences. Given that the selection of these themes are very much my view, there is a little more of my own prose here than usual as well as the relevant links to content, I hope you’ll bare with me and enjoy the additional expression of my opinions here.
This edition I must confess is shorter than I’d intended, as I’ve had to spend the last 2 days preparing my home on New South Wales’ south coast to defend against the bushfire threat. I’d like to thank those of you, and there were a few from this community as well as 4i clients, who reached out to me to enquire of our safety and wish us well. The family and our property are safe, despite the forecast of the nearest front moving through our areas, the wind shifted and the closest fire was 3kms from home. So I may well expand on these themes and revisit them in future editions.
The key themes impacting leaders that I’d like to address are new organisational modes, the impact and establishment of Artificial Intelligence, the Climate opportunity, multi-generational teams, and values-centred organisations. I’ll address each in tern, with recommended content accompanying each. I hope you enjoy and look forward to any thoughts or comments you’d like to share.
New organisational modes (content to READ)
Organisational design has progressed significantly since I entered the workplace in the 1990s, and I believe this pace of change is going to accelerate rapidly in the next decade. Firms like Upwork, Expert360 and LinkedIn’s own freelancer hiring platform have proven the popularity of outsourcing tasks to a highly skilled and flexible workforce, and marketplaces like Airtasker and DesignCrowd have grown highly profitable models of trading these skills through their spaces. The internal functions and processes of many organisations have yet to significantly shift to recognise this opportunity, and find the right balance of skills and cost flexibility with engagement and development. This article from BCG (10mins READ) does an excellent job of, at a high level, setting out 6 of the key elements that organisations will need to address to evolve the traditional corporate or grow the new start-up. The most fascinating element to me is what they describe as ‘ecosystems’, entities comprised of highly flexible skills groups and closely affiliated associates, which compete with conventional organisations. This is very much the premise along which I have designed and grown 4i. The question that BCG do not address is how do leaders evolve to appropriately inspire, motivate and engage with such adaptive, flexible and diverse workforces. Virtual leadership will be a major part of this, as well as enhancing the role of Emotional Intelligence. We will be focusing on how to address these challenges in year ahead.
Here comes AI… (content to READ and WATCH)
This topic has had a lot of media attention over the last year about how AI will impact tasks and role efficiency, without much clarity on the role leaders will play. I find myself somewhat on the fence between the optimistic view that AI will make work more enjoyable and find a return to people doing nuturing, stimulating jobs as basic and repetitive tasks are automated, and those more pessimistic that AI will remove many roles entirely and lead to mass-unemployment becoming a major issue, and leaders increasingly leading automated rather than human teams. The complexity of leading so-called ‘Centaur’ teams, part human part AI, is likely to increase the already rapidly sophisticating leadership skills required, rather than make leadership more simple in my opinion. This article from Towards Datascience (5min read) presents a balanced view across many of the key issues, and for a more detailed optimistic review I highly recommend Human + Machine, (full book 5hour read) by Accenture partners Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson. For a dive into the more pessimistic view held by Elon Musk and many others, take a look at Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots (6 minute YouTube clip here or full book on Amazon which goes deep and long on all the reasons AI is not so good news for work and even life in general).
The climate opportunity (content to READ)
To me, there are 3 ways to look at climate change. 1, you can deny it’s an issue, keep you’re head down and hope you’re right. 2, you accept that there’s a problem, but believe that it’s too big to be solved, or that there’s nothing you can do to help, so hunker down and try to adapt to the inevitable decline in conditions and opportunities. Or 3, and this is my view, you can view climate change as not only the greatest challenge we face as a species, but also the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had. If you look at one of the the books I recommended in the December 2019 Kitbag edition, Drawdown by Paul Hawkes and his team, there are dozens of ways in which as leaders we can positively impact climate, and many of these are new opportunities to lead new and exciting organisations, adopt new positive leadership behaviours and practices or invest directly in new practices or technologies. To me, this is the way to go, embrace the opportunity and throw yourself full-tilt into the journey ahead to make a better world. If you’ve not already done so, do take a look at Drawdown, a long full read or a quick page turner to sections of interest to you (I’d say 3 hours for the full book), and this article from New Scientist (5mins READ) goes someway to show the opporutunities for careers across a broad range of functions that will all take a positive approach to climate, whilst this one from Balance Careers (4mins READ) is more specifically on climate related roles. Also see article from Time on Greta Thunberg, which I’ve opted to include in the multi-generational leadership section.
Leading multi-generational teams (content to LISTEN)
Whilst overall I anticipate teams continuing to become more diverse across across age, gender, race, language, experiential or cognitive capability, and more frequently work remotely from each other, I anticipate that the increasing variety of generations represented in teams, especially the large teams that form whole businesses, will become a primary issue in leadership. A lot has been made in the media and is coming through the research of the need to treat GenY differently to GenX. I’m going to be curious to see how this plays out, as well as GenI and GenZ and those that follow. For me this is mainly about mindset rather than dates of birth, and the ‘mindset maze’ of dealing with a range of stereotype mindsets within a group of individuals ranging from 18-70. One of the better perspectives on this I’ve encountered lately is Chris Tuff, who runs a marketing agency in the USA, and has a useful approach to leading teams primarily of this age range, much of which I think can be usefully applied to diverse teams more generally. He’s done numerous podcasts, the most interesting of which I’ve come across you can find here. (45min LISTEN)
Leading Values centred organisations (content to READ)
I’ve been talking a lot about this topic on my podcast guest appearances over the last 6 months of last year, and I’m seeing more and more in the business and leadership media reinforcing the need for values to be lived, and that there is plentiful research available that this is good for business – profitability, employee engagement and customer experience. This article in Forbes (6min READ) talks about how follows on somewhat from the topic above on leading age diverse teams, that it’s not just GenY who are interested in lived company values. And this article from Inc (4min READ) describes that not only do many of the Fortune 500 share similar values, they also share how they go about living them, in what the article describes as ‘micro actions’ which frequently reinforce the importance of the values and how living them impacts on both employees and customers.
That’s the sweep of key topics I believe will be primary for leaders in the 10 years ahead. And what I and 4iGroup will be championing, the decade of better world leadership. Leaders devoted, determinded and dilligently focused on making the world better through their leadership.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, I hope it makes sense – I must confess I’m pretty exhausted writing today – and I hope you’ll continue to join me and contribute to leading in this great journey ahead.
All the best to you, Happy New Year, and onwards into the 2020s…
Tim and all at 4i