Discovering Next Generation Leaders
When identifying any group of potential future leaders, naturally, it is the conventional organisational and commercial needs that dominate, as do the particular sector or functional requirements of the role. Given that most of us would accept we are experiencing a period of very rapid and accelerating change, many also track parallel social and employment practice changes.
There are many reviews of generational similarities and differences focussed on distilling broad trends, in broad numbers, across broad age-ranges. Here is one such example
|Values||Challenge; ambition; achievement; power||Leadership; freedom; truth; independence||Safety; loyalty; security; hope|
|Work Preferences and Style||Politically savvy; competitive environment; will challenge authority for feedback;
opportunity seekers; frequent job changers
|Work-life balance; sceptical of authority;
self-reliant; oppose hierarchy; innovative; intentional and frequent job changing
|Diverse culture; collaborative;
wants meaningful work;
fun at work;
|Meeting Career Needs||Define promotional opportunities;
annual feedback on progress with documentation
|Define career path expectations;
real time feedback on progress
|Define career path opportunities;
real time feedback on progress and alignment
Most view the above with a critical eye and question what, if anything, is different about the next generation of future leaders in 2019 compared to previous generations? Furthermore, beyond anecdotal observations, is there reliable evidence to show there are any trends that shape the context for identifying, selecting, deploying and developing the next generation of leaders?
The prevailing evidence suggests six underlying trends that will colour how the next generation of leaders is identified, developed and motivated. Compared to other generations, there is more of a focus on personal development, fit with prevailing organisational culture, greater awareness of diversity, employers who demonstrate progressive thinking, and an eclectic approach to enhanced communication and knowledge sharing. Digitalisation and technological developments are likely to expand exponentially over the next few years. However, it is well established that the driving factors here are people related (such as cultural predisposition, digital awareness, digital curiosity, preparedness to innovate etc.).
The focus within personal development has changed. Development opportunities are likely to be seen as more valuable by the next generation of leaders. They are more likely to take advantage of coaching and mentoring compared to previous generations. Why? Because they see it as a way to learn new skills whilst benefiting from their mentor’s individual experiences. Additionally, much more and varied information is available to these next generation leaders compared to their predecessors.
The next generation of leaders are more likely to have greater cultural awareness and sensitivity to their own and others’ fit. This can include attitudes to minorities/workplace diversity, promotion or growth opportunities, feeling valued, and work-life balance. There is convincing evidence emerging that it is these factors (rather than other traditional, promotion-related reasons) that encapsulate the reasons why current future leaders are leaving taking their talent with them.
The next generation of leaders is an attractive prospect to forward-thinking businesses looking at introducing new technologies, strategies, concepts and products. This can be seen not only in the number of successful start-ups but also in how innovative companies seem to attract the most talent. There are many new companies that are now making more effective products which in turn are able to be used to create solutions that are vastly different from those that might have been produced a generation ago. It is currently hard to avoid a media focus on self-steering cars or robotised automated payment systems – products that require sophisticated software that was not available in previous years (and which is still developing).
Finally, there is effective communication which has become a big topic in recent years. Again, technology is the driving factor. Traditional skills such as influencing persuading and networking (i.e. the traditional human factors) are no less important. However, most would agree that being connected on a global basis 24/7 like no other generation makes the nature of getting things done qualitatively very different. Developing next generational leaders will mean getting this mix right in ways that as yet may not be clear, and which may well change with time.
Technological advances, changes, developing social trends, and the cut and thrust of commercial life are nothing new. However, it does look like we are at something of crossroads in the pace, direction, and form of current and future developments. Consequently, these, along with the changing expectations of the current and next generation of emerging leaders, means a different emphasis and approach are necessary if we are to harness the potential we think we currently see in them.
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Church, A. (2018). The Future of C-Suite Potential in the Age of Robotics. People & Strategy, 41(1), 48-50.
Hickman, C. R., & Silva, M. A. (2018). Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy, and change in the new age. Routledge.