JOHANNESBURG – There are many trends in leadership that are driven by the changes in how business has evolved over the past decade.  

As a leader in business himself, I believe the leadership narrative is constantly evolving, particularly because the world keeps changing. Businesses have to adapt to the fourth industrial revolution and the role of leaders to pick up the pace and embrace technologies but also find new ways of managing a multi-generational workforce.

The biggest challenge in South Africa is job creation and it is incumbent on leaders in business and government to create sustainable job opportunities to the hundreds of thousands of graduates yearly.

I expect to see a more concerted effort for businesses, particularly large businesses to drive small business development through outsourcing opportunities to supply but also skills transfer and mentorship. Big business is still the most critical in our economy in terms of job creation and sustenance but also in terms of their contribution to the government fiscal which ultimately creates a conducive environment for job creation.

There are many forces at play in the technology space, in the generational workforce, and in the transfer of power from organisations to customers.  We have seen how leadership has changed from prehistoric leadership, through authoritative leadership, to influential leadership and ultimately where we need to be.  

Another thing to look out for is inspirational leadership which is not necessarily a style of leadership but a way of leadership.  Here, leaders collaborate with their employees, making them creators and contributors of strategy and customer engagement.

The future world of work means that whatever has brought you your current success will not necessarily bring you success in the next ten or more years.  Leaders need to stay abreast of changes in business trends globally by exposing themselves to learning formally and informally.  Leaders are encouraged to attend seminars and conferences globally, events with conversations based on shaping the economic narrative.

One of the biggest skills that one needs to develop themselves is self-leadership. This speaks to emotional agility, which is about how we manage, interact with and navigate our inner feelings, thoughts and experiences.  It is the ability to take a step back from your current situation or experience and determine the desired outcome.  One way to evaluate this leadership skill is to measure the level of employee and customer engagement but also to conduct a culture audit in companies.

The first pillar has to be the leader’s ability to share the expectations of the business in a clear manner.  Leaders also need to be enablers of success which means that they need to be decisive and agile.  Too often, an organisation’s abilities to meet client expectation is hampered by bureaucracy.  

Leaders need to shorten processes in their businesses so that they can serve clients faster and this relates to being responsibly decisive.  Inspirational leaders need to be collaborative and inclusive in driving strategy and culture. One of the biggest pillars has to be ethical leadership. This is a proactive stance on business practices and it also means that leaders can no longer remain aloof and purely focus on being visionaries.

Some of the challenges that leaders are faced with include inspiring a very fatigued workforce to perform and achieve business outcomes.  Guiding change and accelerating the development of staff to meet new demands of consumers is also a critical aspect of business. There is also the challenge of educating customers and stakeholders to partner with business for mutual growth and success.

We need to build more companies that are purpose driven, performance focused and principles led. The shift is in realising that consumers are considering more than just what you provide or sell.  They want to know that you are a responsible organisation and that your purpose goes beyond providing value to your shareholders but that you have fundamental social responsibility and strategy to uplift communities and the economy as a whole.  Game changers will speak to this approach in the future.

Linear and incremental thinking definitely has to be left behind. We are living in a time where change is at an unprecedented pace and in order for businesses to succeed, they need leaders who think exponentially. 

Exponential thinking has to do with making our businesses different while linear thinking is about making out businesses better.  In the exponential model, the ability to improve business has a tenfold impact.  This means leaders need to be able to develop non-existent solutions, conceive products and services that seem laughable at first but end up driving crazy change!

Alex Granger is an international speaker, thought leader, author, co-founder and chief purpose officer at human capital consulting firm Twice Blue. The views expressed here are his own.

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