Next Generation Leaders

Maximising your appeal to next generation leaders

When identifying potential future leaders, it is the conventional organisation and commercial needs that dominate the particular sector or functional role requirements. This answers the question of what we require today, but not necessarily what we want to be tomorrow. And explicitly what would appeal to those who will be leading our businesses tomorrow. Given the fact that we are experiencing rapid and accelerating change, we must also track the parallel social and employment practice changes happening, to complement the sector and functional needs.

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:

Most view these illustrations with a critical eye and question what is any 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 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 are people related (such as cultural predisposition, digital awareness, digital curiosity, preparedness to innovate etc.).

The focus within personal development has changed. Developmental opportunities are likely to be seen as more valuable by the next generation of leaders. A greater appreciation for coaching and mentoring has been found in next generation leaders, as they not only learn the required skills but also the individual experiences of the mentor.

Furthermore, increasingly varied information is available to these next generation leaders. Already we can see approaches such as listing news and worldwide updates, e-training and development courses, working online etc. as the standard.

Next generations leaders are also showing greater cultural awareness and sensitivity to their own and other’s fit. This may include attitudes to minorities/workplace diversity, promotion or growth opportunities, if they feel valued and work life balance. There is emerging evidence that these factors (rather than traditional promotion reasons) help explain why current future leaders are leaving, taking their talent with them.

Next generation leaders are attracted to forward thinking businesses who are introducing new technologies, strategies, concepts and products. This is supported by the number of successful start-ups but also in how innovative companies seem to attract the best talent. For example, new companies making more effective products which in turn create solutions different to those produced a generation ago, or the media focus on self-driving cars or robotised automated payment systems I.e. products that require sophisticated software that was not available in previous years (and is still developing).

Finally, effective communication styles have become a big topic in recent years driven by technology. Skills such as influencing, persuading and networking (the traditional human factors) remain critically important for those aspiring to the highest echelons of leadership. However, many agree that being connected globally 24/7 like no other generation makes the nature of getting things done very different. Next generation leaders will have to get this right in ways that are not currently clear and will change with time.

Technological advances, business transformation, 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.

If you are considering how to embrace the future leaders in your organisation and would like to discuss this in more detail, please contact Dr Stephen Sloan ( or Ed Bransby-Zachary (


Church, A. (2018). The Future of C-Suite Potential in the Age of Robotics. People & Strategy41(1), 48-50.

Hickman, C. R., & Silva, M. A. (2018). Creating excellence: Managing corporate culture, strategy, and change in the new age. Routledge.