The New Leadership

The nature of leadership in the world today is changing. The change is especially evident in how we manage complexity and ambiguity - this is the age of The New Leadership.

The powerful economic and social shift from an industrial-based society to a knowledge-based society powered creativity and ideas, resulting in leadership as we know it dying.

In the past, hierarchies were highly effective ways of managing organisations, when expert knowledge was held by those higher in the hierarchy and when change was much slower. The speed of change and the availability of knowledge mean that old hierarchies with traditional leadership will no longer work as effectively. The quality of decision making will become poorer (and slower) as decisions will still need to be made within the confines of a traditional hierarchy.

It is not surprising that we are seeing organisations that continue to operate this way lose competitive advantage – and in some cases die. They make decisions slowly and look to the past for precedent while living in a market that is accelerating in change, complexity and innovation.

The successful organisations who embrace The New Leadership will see people leading at every level. This will simply create an era of innovation and creativity like we have never seen.

It will also mean that to deal effectively with this very fast moving, complex and ambiguous world, leaders will be distinguished by a very different set of skills than those in organisations focused on traditional leadership.

Jeff Barnes, Senior Manager of Global Learning at GE, said, “The information age has changed the world of leaders. Information is so quick. You don’t have time to really stop and think about it … your job as a leader has gotten so much more complicated.”

Understanding ambiguity and complexity, combined with a high level of continuous learning, will be the success traits of The New Leadership managers.

In my opinion, the New Leadership managers will be:

  • Adaptive
  • Problem solvers
  • Innovative
  • Quick & nimble
  • Comfortable with uncertainty
  • Decisive  & participatory
  • Thoughtful & empowered

The traditional practice of always gathering all of the information available before making the correct decision will change. Decisions will need to be made quickly and then corrected as new information becomes available. Perfection is no longer performance. This will challenge the traditional cultures in many organisations as changing a decision or altering a course is often seen as failure and not as a powerful learning driver.

The shift to New Leadership will also challenge the current educational system and the idea of traditional learning. Our education system is currently geared to teaching facts which need to be remembered. It does not value ongoing learning and thinking. Interestingly, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates were all considered dropouts and yet each one of them changed the world through their thinking. The change to New Leadership will mean that a shift in the way that we view education will be necessary.

A New Leader will be focused on continuous lifelong learning across a range of very different topics and interests. This will enable them to understand change and the drivers of this new thinking which will assist them in harnessing the talent around them to contribute to the organisation.

It will mean that The New Leadership organisations will be those that are more agile, open, human-focused, successful and exciting.

What do you think will be the characteristics of the New Leadership?

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