You could read all the management and leadership books, attend all the seminars focusing on leadership and even acquire education related to management but nothing can really prepare you for the challenges that leaders will face in 2018. These challenges aren’t about textbook issues that can be solved through business logic and models. Nor can they be overcome through statistical analysis and management approaches that are fast becoming archaic in the 21st century.
The challenges that lie ahead are more sensitive in nature. They require more careful attention and changes in the entire system, rather than simple quick resolutions. In the complex world that we’re living in today, with technology and human behavior rapidly evolving and transforming, traditional leadership is, in itself, a challenge that needs to be reevaluated and rethought.
What are these challenges that leaders will face in 2018 and beyond? Here’s a glimpse at some of them.
1. AUTOMATION AND THE LOSS OF JOBS
The internet was the biggest disruptor that we experienced towards the end of the 20th century. It brought with it access to information and speed of communication – the pervious massive revolution we experienced was back in the 18th century in the form of the industrial revolution. We’re now on the verge of another disruptive force that’s being built upon artificial intelligence. While there’s plenty of debate going around the ethics of AI, its practical application can’t be ignored or challenged. And as more and more devices and organizations adopt to AI’s application, we’re becoming more dependent on it. This then creates a situation where our reliance on AI will reduce (if not omit) from the equation human interactions. Simply put, AI will replace humans in jobs that require less specialized skills.
Why this is a challenge is because leaders will soon start to feel the pressure of adapting to the new ‘norm’ of automation in their workforce. This, of course, will give rise to the pressure of developing people for fear that they’ll have to be let go. Building capacity in your existing workforce isn’t something that happens overnight or with a few training sessions. It’s a process built upon a well-planned development program(s). Starting to think along these lines today can help leaders prepare for the inevitable future of a more skilled workforce that relies more on automation, than humans.
2. STAYING TRANSPARENT
In recent years there’s been an explosion of eye-opening debate, controversies and public questioning. Many of the topics of discussion have come to light thanks to the widespread use or social media channels and media interest. These have given rise to consumer awareness and fueled regulators to be more active in addressing the issues. However, above everything else, leaders are being openly questioned, challenged and brought under fire to comment on how their organizations operate, do business and what their corporate values stand for. And as more issues come to light, the resultant is a chain reaction of casting doubt on everything we consume.
The challenge that lies ahead for leaders is to remain more transparent in how they do business. Gone are the days when leaders can avoid spotlight and questioning. Today, their leadership and authority is much more vulnerable to be questioned, particularly in terms of how they plan to address real-life issues like discrimination, raw material sourcing, product quality and so on. If you think operating in a monopolistic environment or having unique products will keep you safe, think again. Samsung, Apple, Volkswagen and even Microsoft have all had their fair share of controversies and debates to put to rest. Your organization’s values are constantly going to be challenged and at the heart of it, so will your leadership.
3. WOMEN'S ROLE IN THE WORKPLACE
Lately, there’s been some momentum to address issues faced by women at the workplace, however, many argue that not enough is being done. The rate of progress being made, while more than previous decades, isn’t merely enough to really impact the numbers and percentages that state women are succeeding in the corporate world. And that’s precisely the challenge that impacts all leaders, across every industry and throughout the world. How do organizations engage women more, progress their careers, pay them fairly and finally stop discriminating (even if subliminally).
In 2018, leaders will continue to make progress in this domain – though how much progress is still left to be seen. Sure, you hear of a few big success stories where women made it to the top and earned success as leaders, but there still are far too few of them. And that’s not really the catalyst of change. As a leader, the challenge is to really shake things up in the middle of your organization. It’s about enhancing your development strategies that build capacity in your female workforce. It’s about rewriting your DNA to really value women and their contributions. And it’s about developing sustainable programs that’ll reflect upon the change you want now for many decades to come.
4. COLLABORATIVE LEADERSHIP
2018 will see the decline (if not the end) of the heroic leader. Gone are the days when shareholders, employees and customers are looking towards the valiant leader to have all the answers. Sure you’re not going to believe all this (for now), however, the tides are changing. Most leaders will continue to relish the authority, power and grip they have on the organizations they lead. They’ll believe that it’s through their vision and commitment there’s any success to enjoy. However, that’s certainly not the case, more so nowadays.
The challenge here isn’t to help the leader realize that they can’t achieve success flying solo. It’s much broader than that. It’s about accepting the new norm of collaborative leadership. That’s when you have leaders all across your organization, at various levels and functions. All of these leaders are working collaboratively to help the organization achieve its purpose and goals. And that’s where the leader on top needs to open their eyes and accept that he/she isn’t going to achieve greatness on their own – it’s actually going to be achieved from all efforts within the organization. Hence, there’s capability to build, leaders to be groomed and nurtured and opportunities to be provided so that greatness can shine from every corner of the organization.
The world as we knew it has changed. The business world as we knew it has evolved. Leadership, ultimately, too must evolve, change and embrace the times. The challenges ahead aren’t something that leadership and management books can help solve. Leaders need to approach these challenges leveraging their intuition, adaptability skills and constantly keep an open mind.