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Future Leader

What future-ready leaders do differently

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This article is brought to you by Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

Sitting on the global executive team at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Dr Thomas Goh is its chief client officer and managing director, APAC leading a team of over 100 talented individuals across multiple functions, roles, geographies and markets.

In this exclusive, Goh speaks to Human Resources on the governing body’s key goals and insights on future readiness of leaders.

Leading a team of more than 100 multicultural and multilingual individuals, tell us some of the key goals for your team this year?

Our main priorities are our talent, our clients and the communities around us. We want our staff to be engaged at work, as they deliver context-relevant solutions to clients. With tailored offerings, we want our clients to get the benefit of proven solutions and empirically proven thought leadership. We are also introducing new programmes to keep our clients and participants relevant to the ever changing world. We want to fulfil our mission of building better societies by helping communities learn practical tools and solutions that could help them build better leaders, from youths to adults.

CCL has done a global research on future readiness. Could you tell us more about this?

Future readiness is about getting ahead of the curve. Instead of just playing catch up, future-ready leaders focus on staying ahead in key aspects of business such as strategy, organisation design, business processes and policies, as well as talent development.

Future-ready leaders are forward looking, talent-focused, driven by insights, client-centric, and market-oriented. They think about what the landscape looks like in the future and plan towards these scenarios. Future readiness brings together the right mindset and skill set to constantly get ahead, supported by having context-relevant business and operating models which they review and revise constantly.

Clients often come to us to seek practical advice on how their leaders could lead in the future effectively in environments where results are more important than concepts and ideas.

Future-ready leaders are forward looking, talent-focused, driven by insights, client-centric, and market-oriented. 

How do you think leadership will change from now to in five years’ time?

Amidst rapid disruption, where leaders must ensure their organisations continue to create value and meaning for their employees and customers, leadership will be transformed in many different levels – at cultural, organisational and nature of leadership.

First, organisations of the future are more agile and more adaptable than today’s. We have to acknowledge that the speed, scale and scope of disruption is accelerating at a pace quicker than before. This calls for faster, more agile and more adaptable styles of leadership.

As organisations operate on multiple speeds and ways, leaders have to build a culture of agility and adaptability. They will have to be more involved through new and novel ways that put them closer to where employees and the markets are.

Second, organisations and teams will move from fixed organisation to open, dynamic, networked and inter-dependent teams. Organisations will no longer take a cookie-cutter approach in designing their organisations and teams.

They will be leveraging on internal talent and resources, as well as external alliances, collaborations and networks. Changes to organisation and team structures will be made in incremental steps to adjust to changing market circumstances.  

Third, instead of viewing leadership as a directive mechanism, future-ready leaders lead through influence – both internally and externally – so that they win the hearts and minds of people. Leaders of organisations of the future will see leadership as a social process that produces direction, alignment, and commitment in collectives.  

Instead of leaders fixing pain-points, teams of the future will be entrusted with shared responsibility, and greater participation across all levels in interdependent network of talent and alliance partners.   

Organisations of the future will be more agile and adaptable, organisations are structured in open, dynamic and networked structures to facilitate innovation and change, and leaders would adopt a more consultative approach in driving direction, action and communication.  

In the organisation of the future, how does the leadership role change?

In the organisation of the future, there will be a need for leaders to seek the most valuable roles. This could be new roles or add-ons to existing roles and responsibilities. These roles would help the leadership team and organisation to be more agile and adaptable:

  • Chief ecosystem officer – looks for and cultivates the broad network of collaborators and partners to stimulate a movement toward a better future.
  • Chief intelligence officer – gathers data, develops algorithms, and uses machine learning to increase the intelligence of the organisation and its partners.
  • Chief experience officer – creates engaging experiences across all channels in the value chain to strengthen the brand equity.
  • Chief maker officer – leads developers, hackers, gamers, and robotics experts to prototype, fail fast, and rapidly bring new products, services, and experiences to market.
  • Chief value officer –  defines shared value across the ecosystem and leverages the blockchain to ensure equitable distribution across the value chain.

Aside from new roles, it is also about the ability of a leader to be versatile and adopt different identities and personas for different scenarios, to achieve the strategic objectives within that environment.

These new roles are not just defined by job descriptions alone, but also by meanings that give a deep physiological, emotional connection.

As organisations operate on multiple speeds and ways, leaders have to build a culture of agility and adaptability. 

What are the three trends that are disrupting organisations in APAC?

Different markets experience varying levels of disruptive forces. There are three common trends that are set to transform the way we think and work – the sharing economy, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).

The sharing economy has transformed business models and the very idea of ownership and employment. In the APAC region, we have seen the exponential growth of homegrown sharing economy startups such as Go-Jek and Grab in Southeast Asia, and Didi Chuxing in China, within just a few years.

Meanwhile, AI provides new insights to inform decision making and is also increasingly being applied practically across industries, fuelled by breakthroughs in machine learning, and supported by the huge explosion of data.

The IoT offers new connectivity between people and things. Delivering ambitions of smart and responsive cities, it leverages on real-time data to respond to the needs, wants, and desires of its citizens. Well aware of the imperative to stay on the top of developments in this field, the Singapore government set up the Smart Nation initiative in 2014, to harness infocomm technologies, networks and big data to create tech-enabled solutions.

How should future ready leaders think and do differently?

In our research, we found many behavioural traits, competencies, skills, knowledge and ways of doing things. They could be classified under these broad categories:

  • Think of possibilities instead of constraints
    Future leaders focus on opportunities that enable them rather than the difficulties that belabour them.
  • Act collaboratively
    Naturally collaborate with others and leverage on their strengths to quickly scale up the business rather than attempting to build their own capabilities. They see the sum of the parts being bigger, more agile and adaptive, than the whole.
  • Natural communicators
    They communicate using multiple channels, different methods and different media to bring the message across to other parties.
  • Be assertive without being offensive
    They stand firm when necessary, without being foolhardy.
  • Ask critical questions
    They are comfortable looking at large volumes of data and make informed judgement based on it.
  • Think win-win
    They believe in reciprocity and help alliance partners in ways that win their trust. Prefer to lead open, dynamic, networked organisations rather than be bound by outdated paradigms of leading traditional linear and hierarchical organisational models.
  • Experiment
    They test new ideas rather than rely on ‘conventional wisdom’. What works then may not work now. What doesn’t work in the past may be relevant in current context.

If there could be only one key takeaway to leaders – what would that be?

Be future ready.

Photo / 123RF



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