Successful leaders will be those who not only manage the disruptive conditions of today’s world but thrive on them and enable others to do so, writes Kate Wilson
There was a growing sense that a new generation of leaders has risen to the top in this years’ top provider chief executive awards. As the discussion continues in the system about what “good” looks like for NHS leaders two new and important themes stand out.
First, a clear emphasis on the creation of a diverse workforce and inclusive environment as a non-negotiable. Secondly, increased levels of attention on the talent management agenda with leading chief executives engaging broadly at the local, regional and national level.
This focus on future talent, particularly diverse future talent, reflects changing times and will be critical for the NHS going forward. We’re seeing new demands on leaders in the NHS and beyond as they react to a local and global context of ongoing change and volatility.
They must have flexible mindsets, the ability to spot and capitalise on opportunities fast and the capability to create adaptable organisations that continuously innovate
As the future becomes increasingly hard to predict, one thing is clear; the successful leaders of the future will not look the same as the past. Korn Ferry’s new research shows that above all else, they must have flexible mindsets, the ability to spot and capitalise on opportunities fast and the capability to create adaptable organisations that continuously innovate.
In other words, successful leaders will be those who not only “manage” the disruptive conditions of today’s world but thrive on them and enable others to do so.
These capabilities are not a nice to have: our research in the private sector shows that many investors are starting to value future vision and orientation over past performance when they consider an organisation’s likely success. They may be right to do so.
We reviewed the Korn Ferry global data on 150,000 leaders and our research highlighted how those with the right future oriented skills to operate in this context were more likely to be working for a company which ranks high on the Global Innovation Index or Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies.
What are these leaders doing in practice? They combine a range of capabilities with a focus on connecting people and resources, shifting mindsets and creating and maintaining energy and purpose for mutual organisation and individual growth.
Korn Ferry research identified the following characteristics of effective future leaders.
Anticipate: They demonstrate contexual intelligence to make quick judgments and create opportunities; provide a direction to unify collective efforts even among disoriented environments.
Drive: They energise people by fostering a sense of purpose; manage the mental and physical energy of themselves and others; nurture a positive environment to keep people intrinsically motivated.
Accelerate: They manage the flow of knowledge to produce constant innovation and desired outcomes; use agile processes, and iterative approaches to rapidly implement.
Partner: They form partnerships across increasingly permeable functional and organisational boundaries; enable the exchange of ideas; combine complementary capabilities to enable high performance.
Trust: They form a new relationship between the organisation and the individual that centres on mutual growth; integrate diverse perspectives and values; help individuals to uncover their sense of purpose and facilitate them in providing their maximum contribution.
This is a challenging profile and it’s not surprising that only 15 per cent of the leaders in our database showed this range of capabilities, with the UK showing particular gaps in “Accelerate”.
This raises some questions for those developing the next generation of leaders, both in terms of what “good” looks like and how you spot and develop them. Traditional approaches to talent pipelines and development are unlikely to work.
Where should today’s leaders start? Perhaps by recognising that this talent looks different, may be difficult to listen to and challenging to manage. As they constantly agitate for change, it’s easy to label people with these attributes as trouble-makers rather than harnessing them as positive disruptors. Fortunately, in the top 50 list we see the NHS has some leaders at the top who will welcome this challenge.
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The future of leadership