To achieve success in the future, as a leader you must be able to reflect, surrender control at the right times and understand your employees' feelings. Read more below and gain insight into the competencies future leaders will need to achieve real participation from their employees.
Many leaders have an extensive need for control, though they would never admit it. I can easily understand this, really, because they are also the ones in the hot seat. But trying to control what is beyond control is useless. A vital skill for future leaders will therefore be to learn to surrender control for long periods – and then regain control at the right time. Does that sound easy? No, and it isn't because, of course, the big question is how leaders can know the time is right.
I believe timing is largely a matter of the leader's ability to reflect on his or her leadership and the company's objectives. Reflection moves you forwards and makes you more able to make the right decisions at the right times. Reflection is especially important when business models crumble, and new opportunities crop up, because then there will be very few recognisable patterns to rely on. No experience to draw on – and then how will you cope unless you have developed a strong ability to manage based on your own reflections? Companies operating with multispeed business operations are actually crying out for leaders with this ability to reflect, so the competency will be in demand in the years ahead.
Losing control is not nice
And now to return to the concept of control, losing control is rarely enjoyable, but it is necessary to drive change and innovation. At the same time, as a leader you must determine whether the need for control stems from your own need or from the needs of the situation. There is a big difference, after all.
Future leaders will be able to lead with less control of content and more control of processes, and therefore process and facilitation skills must also be strong. Leaders should realise that when they need control and monopolise decision-making, they are also taking control away from others: the employees. And this makes little sense, as the employees are the ones creating the process. Instead, future leaders should help employees to develop, otherwise the role of leader will quickly become simply an insignificant position of power.
"A popular leadership competency in the future will be insight into
the emotional aspect of leadership.”
Fight, freeze or flight?
We cannot ignore the fact that future leaders will need to deal with relationships and feelings. We say we are logical people but really we are driven mainly by our limbic brain, which controls our emotions. When under extreme pressure, we even react with our lizard brain, and then our options are limited to: Fight, freeze or flight.
At school, we learn to think clearly and present an argument, but we do not learn why we feel how we feel. Even though these feelings control us and fill our thoughts. Many people have trouble translating their emotions into words – and that also applies in a work environment. Emotions trump our logic, and therefore future leaders must understand this premise. Today, we run our companies with pure logic, but that is precisely why so many processes and projects fail. We will not be able to afford this kind of mistake in the future, as actions must be executed swiftly. One sought-after management competency will therefore be insight into the emotional aspects of leadership.
How can you appeal to other people's emotions?
Mental note: I must keep track of the emotional aspects of leadership, but how do I do that, exactly? First and foremost, you must recognise that people will not always do what you want just because you ask them to. It is more a matter of expecting some reactions and then appealing to the emotions that arise. You cannot predict them all, but you can respect them and make room for them. Leaders of the future must be able to help employees on their way because they understand the emotional aspects of e.g. processes of change.
According to David Rock, author of the book "Your Brain at Work", Maslow's hierarchy of needs looks different today. Justice, social cohesion, status and predictability are now also at the lowest level along with other basic needs. Future leaders should appreciate that. Therefore expect a counter-reaction, e.g. when employees receive new tasks that negatively affect their status. Or when mass redundancies are impending and people begin defending their positions. Consequently, you must consider the situation exceptionally well when introducing something new and wanting people to surrender control. Because they are thinking: "No way – I'm not being fired for making mistakes".
Don't be a steamroller
Influence is another element that future leaders will need to handle. These days, no one takes orders without asking questions, and the key to happy employees who create results involves influence. In a negotiating situation, we have a deep-seated conviction that both parties should get something out of it. And if you push something through, there will only be one winner. This creates no satisfaction and provides no influence, so bear in mind that a win-win scenario is the best outcome. This means two people achieve something.
Otherwise, employees who have been steamrollered will close down and no longer participate constructively in the process. You cannot afford that, as all resources must be pulling in the same direction. People do not work consciously towards something. They simply react to their feelings, and you should be able to predict and handle that.
I also believe it is important for future leaders to understand that they are not solely responsible for motivation and engagement. Ultimately this lies with individual employees. You cannot change other people, but you can give them the "scope" to change themselves.
"You must encourage a culture where employees dare to try new things
because they trust you as a leader."
When hitting top gear
Future leaders will also have to deal with life in the fast lane on various fronts. When that happens, you must talk more about the vision than the money, because we must get employees fired up about the cause. Commitment is required, as the road ahead is unclear and uncertain. As a future leader, you must also be able to talk to your employees about threats, and how to handle them. If you don't, your employees will not dare surrender control. You must encourage a culture where employees dare to try new things because they trust you as a leader. Not because you have all the answers, but because you ask all the right questions and help them make progress. Look in the mirror. Are you a leader who creates framework conditions that make people invest their passion in you? Or have you created a KPI hell?
As a leader, you must be self-critical and reflect, because being a leader will not become easier in the future. It will be challenging and hectic, but the future will also be exciting and more open than ever before. Are you ready to lead in the future?
Future leaders must be able to:
- Reflect both on your own leadership and the company's objectives
- Act in a multispeed business climate
- Give up control – but regain it when necessary
- Keep track of processes and facilitation
- Have strong self-insight
- Create frameworks for employees to grow and motivate themselves
- Know your own values and balance them in relation to the company's values
- Understand the importance of emotions and relationships
- Give employees influence
- Work with transition – not transformation