In the times we live and operate in today, competition is stiff. Companies are gunning to be the first, the most innovative and technologically advanced, the most sizeable player in the industry and even have the most decorated group of talent employed with them. With all this happening, leaders face the challenge of being right on the mark when it comes to delivering on their vision and motivating their talent to extract the most from them. It’s the time of the exponential leader – a leader who isn’t looking for just growth and expansion, isn’t worried about the next 5 or 10 years, but is instead leading the way to impact the future.

Much like the evolution of technology, management and manufacturing, leadership also has had to evolve in recent years. Those leaders who’ve transitioned to exponential thinking have enjoyed much success. Those who haven’t kept up with the change have led their companies to a state of desperate need of survival.

The evolution of leadership can be explained much like that of vehicles. Cars manufactured 20 or more years ago didn’t have crumple zones. This means that in the event of a collusion, the driver and passenger would ‘feel’ the entire impact. With time, manufactures realized that vehicles with crumple zones can absorb energy from collusions much more efficiently. This made vehicles safer and better equipped to withstand impacts. Leaders are the vehicles of organizations. They’re the ones steering people where to go, defining the vision, and setting goals. Hence, it’s only natural that the evolution of leadership would see them efficiently absorb adverse impacts (collusions) and safeguard their people and stakeholders (driver and passengers). Today’s leaders need to be inbuilt with crumple zones that can withstand any and all negative impacts.

To adapt to the rapidly changing and complex business environment, leaders need to exhibit competencies that’ll address the needs of today and many years into the future. That’s how success will be real and achievable. What are these qualities exponential leaders need? Well here are a few.

1. Collaborate

While the weight of the company rests on a leaders’ shoulders, every decision and idea doesn’t have to come from them. Today’s leader seeks input from across the board – from their employees and customers. To create a high performing organization, every integral component of the company needs to work together. Hearing different viewpoints from all avenues and different roles will enable the leader to get insights that they would never be able to obtain on their own. This then helps to produce decisions and strategies that cover every possible angle.

2. Look Outside In

To make an impact in the space you’re operating in you’ll have to be fully aware and informed of the industry, trends and competition. What are your competitors up to? Who are your customers and what behaviors are they exhibiting? How is technology impacting your industry? Answering these will help you decipher how to alter and update your processes and strategies. However, if you’re going to simply adopt best practices, replicate what your competitors are doing, and address today’s customer needs then you’ll fall short of achieving success. Remember, times are changing rapidly. Don’t follow trends – lead the way by shaping the future. You need to stay ahead of everyone else.

3. Be Real and Thoughtful

Many leaders use their authority and position to walk on clouds and that’s precisely how you drift away from your followers and the company goals. Remain true to who you are, what you’re about and how you got here. Rather than wearing that ego-cloak, keep yourself grounded and remain accessible to your teams. You’ll earn more respect and allegiance from your teams by being a ‘real’ person to them and being mindful of their aspirations and dreams.

4. Focus on What’s Right

Morality, ethics, integrity and values – the foundation of a great leader and eternal leadership legacies. Sure you’re out there to succeed and achieve your personal goals as well as the company’s goals, however, at what cost? Will you compromise on your personal values? Will you betray the company’s ethical stance? A great leader knows when to draw the time and walk away from a battle that can’t be won ethically.

5. Lead with Humility

Greatness doesn’t mean you’re the best and unparalleled. Nor does it mean you have to transform into an egotistical maniac who’s on a power trip. An often forgotten quality of leadership is humility – the ability to stay humble and grounded. You’re a role model after all. If your people can’t relate to you they’ll never truly follow you.

6. Invest in Yourself

Sure you have much to accomplish and achieve, however, you can’t do it all if you’re falling behind yourself. Relying on your strengths, knowledge and experience is the biggest way to navigate your leadership. However, if your strengths and knowledge are getting rusted, you’ll be of little help to your employees and company. Invest in developing yourself and continuously learning. Stay connected with your professional network and value the insights you gain from them. Stay involved with your family and indulge in your passions (outside work). All of these help to stay recharged, resilient and focused on the big achievements you need to conquer.

7. Inspire People

When you add all the above 6 qualities you get a solid leadership platform that’ll inspire many, many followers. It’s what aspiring leaders dream of aligning themselves to so that they can learn from and be mentored to their own greatness. It’s what your talent needs in order for them to give it their all. It’s how you, as a great exponential leader, will enable yourself to do more than you can imagine, through the support and efforts of your people!

To stay ahead of the accelerated pace of change leaders must continue to develop their mindset, skills, and behavior. These qualities are the foundation of exponential leaders who really want to make an impact to their companies, the society and the world. If you’re not able to build a crumple zone that can withstand the impacts of change, you will, like old vehicles, lead your people to a sudden halt.