6 Essential Skills for Future Leaders

skills for future leaders

“Time and time again, our species has escaped existential threats by reinventing ourselves, finding new skills not coded in our genes to survive new challenges not previously encountered.” – David Grinspoon

If you’re concerned about whether you have the right skillset to navigate the business world throughout the coming years, you’re actually ahead of the pack. Facing change and uncertainty can feel scary, but your awareness of the oncoming changes will help you prepare to negotiate them with grace and skill.

Plenty of core competencies will remain essential skills for leaders in the future. Certain ones will become increasingly vital, while other skills valued in today’s workplace will diminish in importance. By developing the right mix of skills, you’ll have the confidence and assertiveness to thrive in a changing organizational environment.

Six Essential Skills for Future Leaders

1. Coaching ability.

Machines aren’t likely to begin effectively coaching employees any time in the foreseeable future, McKinsey’s research has confirmed. While AI applications can do a lot of things more efficiently than humans, like answering basic questions or guiding an employee through a self-directed training module, motivating and guiding people’s development isn’t one of them. Only people have the skills to lead others. Thus, coaching ability will be one of the most essential skills for future leaders—particularly since good coaches will help their teams successfully navigate the changes in store.

That means if you know how to mentor people, engage your team, be transparent with your staff, and guide your team through changes, you’ll be an asset in any organizational context. Practice exercising your leadership skills within challenging situations in order to hone your ability to guide your team through the rough waters of change.

2. Specialized areas of expertise.

Study a particular subfield within your area of knowledge in order to develop specialized knowledge that will make you highly marketable in that realm. For example, in the HR field, you could focus on compliance or succession planning, or if you work in finance, you could study healthcare accounting. Find something that will remain relevant and study that niche area inside and out. In the coming years, many organizational functions will shift into more of a consulting role, playing a stronger part in guiding organizational direction—which means their leaders need a specialized mix of skills.

3. Aptitude for working collaboratively.

In the future, people will work less in siloes and more across functions—again, due to the role of specialized consultant that they’ll often be playing. For example, a finance professional will have a more hands-on role in guiding the direction of the organization rather than focusing on crunching numbers. While automated reports can provide a huge amount of data and analytics, organizations still need someone to interpret all that data. Automated tools can aggregate and structure the information, but humans give it context and meaning. An expert needs to explain how it should influence decisions in a way that others can understand, in order for organizations to leverage it effectively.

Start thinking now about how you would work to shape your organization’s direction—and look for opportunities to start exerting your influence within multidisciplinary teams!

4. Emotional intelligence.

This is yet another quality that machines simply don’t have: The ability to relate to people on a personal level, build trust and rapport, and get results through the ability to motivate and inspire them. Emotional intelligence means having empathy for others in all your interactions and recognizing how they feel, as well as the ability to predict, understand, and regulate your own emotions so they don’t control you.

Knowing how to help employees grow their confidence and push themselves to tackle new hurdles will be especially vital as organizations restructure job roles and organizational functions. Emotional intelligence will play a key role in helping any leader excel.

5. Ingenuity.

A propensity for developing innovative new ideas and taking strategic risks will also differentiate leaders from the rest of the crowd. The most successful leaders of the future will have a distinct propensity for problem-solving, because they have the courage to take risks and the creativity to come up with ingenious solutions that no one else has thought of.

6. Big-picture thinking.

Finally, the most successful leaders will engage in big-picture thinking that synthesizes numerous perspectives from throughout the organization. They’ll have an aptitude for looking at a problem from all vantage points and figuring out the best possible solution, informed by those multiple perspectives. As a result, they’ll steer their organization to higher levels of success.

As you’ve probably noticed, many of these skills are interpersonal rather than technical in nature. In the future, leaders will need skills that allow them to guide and influence both people and organizational direction. These abilities will only increase in importance as machines handle many technical elements of job roles. Establish yourself as a strong leader by cultivating these key qualities, and you’ll supercharge your skillset to remain marketable in the changing organizational context.

Joel can help your organization to maximize the potential of its talent. Contact him to learn how he can coach your current and aspiring leaders to success.

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