5 Practices for Leaders of Future

This blog post is for you if you plan to become or already are a leader who intends to lead their team in a world where change is the only constant and engagement (employee/customer) is extremely difficult to build.

One of the biggest challenges that the future is going to throw at all organisations is their ability to cope up with constant change and to deal with the chaos that follows.

We have seen that most organisations that fail (Nokia, BlackBerry, Kodak, etc), fail due to the inability of their leaders to see what the future holds and change course.

If you are a leader who wants to lead his/her organisation into the future and help succeed, there are a few practices that if built in your daily schedule, will go a long way to avoid the mistakes that leaders do that lead to failure.

So what are these leadership practices:

1. Helps create a shared vision:

One of the most important role that a leader plays is to envision or help create a shared vision of what the future looks like. In order to be able to do so, leaders need to stay in touch with the current reality and understand the trends in the marketplace.

This means that they remain constantly in touch with their customers/partners and employees who are customer facing, partner facing and use them as the source of identifying what is happening in the market place.

They need to ensure that there is very little or no filtering of information due to the various layers that they might have between themselves and the front line staff.

They need to also look at adjacent industries to their industries to see what is happening in that industry.

Based on what they see as the trends, they need to be able to help their team create a shared vision of their future. Gone are the days when leaders could stand on a pedestal and announce their vision and everyone starts marching towards the vision. Leaders need to be able to create the shared vision. This sense of a shared vision is what gives the leaders the ability to leads their people towards the vision and helps them in the next practise.

2. Instigates co-ordinated action:

Once there is a sense of a shared vision, then the leaders job is to instigate co-ordinated action. All the three words that we have used here are key

  • Instigate – This is the primary job of a leader – he/she instigates change. How do great leaders instigate change – they make the status quo an uncomfortable place to be. They talk about improvement and not change. They paint a picture of what is possible and where we lack. They inspire people to move from their current uncomfortable situation to the desired state of the future.
  • Action – Leading is all about action. There is no progress without action. The very act of leading is to drive an action. Great leaders will not only instigate/move their people to take action but will also show what the action looks like. They will consistently communicate with their team on what are the actions that move us towards the goals and what are the actions that take us away from the goal.
  • Co-ordinated: Power of leaders is amplified if they are able to instigate actions that are co-ordinated and move the entire teams towards the vision that they have helped craft. The co-ordinated action moves the entire team in one direction and creates forward momentum and once you have built momentum towards a vision, it creates its own energy and creates a positive spiral that helps the team realise its vision much faster than otherwise possible. The momentum also gives the team a feeling of progress on a daily basis.

3. Makes decisions and teaches others how to make decisions

What differentiates great leaders from the others is their ability to make decisions based on the information available and the priorities of the team. In a world where everything changes so fast, this ability to make decisions becomes critical for survival. The speed at which a team is required to make decisions is also important. This also means that a lot of times the team members would have to make decisions on their own. This is where it is critical that the leader systematically trains the team to make decisions which takes the team towards realising the shared vision and still ensures that everyone in the team still stays co-ordinated.

One of the best examples of this behaviour that I have come across is by Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines. He is famous to have taught every employee of the Organization to decide based on the one shared vision they had – to be the lowest cost airline. Whenever he was approached with an idea/suggestion/request for a decision, he was known to ask the team the one guiding question – will this make us the lowest cost airline? The answer usually showed itself.

Once the team knew these rules based on which the leader made his decisions, the teams can then use the rules and make a lot more decisions themselves, thereby increasing the agility of the organisation, which in the future is going to be one of the biggest differentiator for Organizations which succeed from those that just about survive or die.

4. Coaches and Develops other leaders

This expectation from a leader hasn’t changed for ages and mostly will remain for ages. Great leaders are the one’s who are able to train/coach/mentor their team and help them become great leaders.

Every great leader that you can think of, has had a role model in their lives who have had significant impact on the way these leaders turn out.

Great leaders learn how to be that impact in the lives of their teams by living up as the role model.

5. Sets the foundation of the culture in the team:

This is probably the easiest and the toughest at the same time. This is easiest as this is something that every leader already does – with or without intention.

This is the toughest because this is one practice that requires the leader to be intentional about everything – how they behave, what do they recognise, what do they criticise, how they treat others, how they treat themselves, how they treat success and failure and everything else. This sets the tone for the culture of the team and the larger organisation and thereby having a profound impact on the entire team and the outcome of the team.

And in a fast paced environment, the culture gets an amplified role in the success or failure of the organisation.

In Summary:

These are roles that great leaders have performed for ages but will become tables-takes for leaders in the future. It is no longer about doing this to stand out but to stay on.