December 16, 2016

Futureproof Your Leadership - How Do We Best Prepare For The Future As Leaders?


Leadership is changing, all the time, every day. You know that.

A lot of what was expected and needed from leaders yesterday is not relevant today and it most likely won’t be tomorrow. If you want to stay relevant and successful as a leader, you must adopt a curious mindset, proactively futureproofing your leadership for the challenges and opportunities that are waiting around the corner.

There are many reasons why leadership is changing – one of these is of course the massive speed of change that we are experiencing in the business world and the society as a whole. Globalization is certainly part of that fast change and offers all sorts of possibilities. Expectations of sustainable business ethics and processes, carefully managing the resources (natural, human and financial) needed for future success is another important factor that puts new, heightened expectations on leaders.

This is all great news, really. Don’t see it as threat, see it as a promise of continuous variety and the satisfaction that comes from progression – a sense of development and accomplishment.

Many leaders attend leadership programmes and training courses with the intention of developing – sometimes because their organisation wants them to and sometimes because they want it themselves. Sadly many such programmes don’t give the kind of return on investment that had been hoped for and one of the reasons is that they rarely get to the behavioural aspect of leadership where transformational, real, deep change occurs. If you want to achieve REAL leadership development, then you need to start focusing more on your behaviours as these are what impact other people most – leadership is after all “the act of influencing others”, getting the job done through others.

So see your leadership as an asset – your key resource for getting the job done. And invest in continuous development (keeping in mind that this can happen in many formats, such as self-studies, networking, private advisory groups, mentoring, 1-2-1 coaching, peer coaching, and knowledge exchanges) of that asset - to not just reactively respond to changing conditions, but proactively taking charge of your own leadership development. Don’t be so busy (oh, we know that so many leaders have the dreaded “busy bug”) that weeks and months and years pass without you ever truly getting to futureproof your leadership. 

Here are our top tips for how you can best prepare for the future as a leader:

  • Commit to constant development as a leader – recognize that the development never stops and that it is a good thing, take responsibility for your development.
  • Become really curious about the world around you, other people, developments and trends – listen and ask a lot of questions.
  • Keep an open mind to new ideas, new ways of thinking and doing things. Remember that even if you once new the best answer/solution to something, things change and hence so will the solutions.
  • Encourage and promote dialogue between people. Ask questions, challenge people’s thinking to establish a creative dialogue climate where more is achieved as result.
  • Involve others. Share your leadership, become as inclusive as you possibly can, to encourage and develop individual and collective leadership and ownership.
  • Hire people who know more than you (particularly in areas where you know the business needs to develop) – don’t be afraid to not “know it all” (no one does!).
  • Build on your strengths. No one can be best at everything (thankfully) so make the most of what you have naturally. Acquire new knowledge linked to your talents, use your strengths in new situations, push yourself to become the best you can be.
  • Be open and transparent; people and organisations need more and more transparency going into the future. There is an expectation for leaders to be more open - share what you can.
  • Get really creative about communication, with so many methods and mediums, for communication you will need to get more savvy with how you communicate. Don’t just go with your trusted ways of communicating, push yourself to be creative, to get heard in “the noise”.
  • Share your knowledge, insights and wisdom with others - vigilantly share what you know – the future will need more sharing and cross-pollination of ideas, not less.

This is not a complete preparation list by any means, but it’s a good start. Use it as an inspiration for how you can become (more) proactive about the future. Commit to not just a “tick-box” exercise, but a true investment into your own future success.

Ask yourself: what value am I adding as a leader today and how do I want to add value into the future? And let the answer help you decide where you should focus your next steps for leadership development – and future success.

Mandy Flint & Elisabet Vinberg Hearn, award-winning authors of “Leading Teams – 10 Challenges: 10 Solutions” is out now, published by Financial Times International. Download your free chapter here:

More from Vistage:

The future of work

Our gift to you...

Apply now for your personal leadership consultation with a Vistage Chair. They'll help you assess areas of strength of your business and identify areas of potential growth.

Apply Now

Subscribe to Vistage Insights