A leadership definition based on a future perspective

Where to start with a leadership definition well most theories of modern leadership are to do with two things visioning and influence .

According to Arieu. a leader is "a person capable of inspiring and associate others with a dream."

Implied in this definition is

  • the ability to navigate through ambiguity and constant change by envisioning a better place or state
  • the relationship and communication skills to share idea and get people on board

    In these sorts of leadership definitions typically it is up to management to get things done and make things happen. You know “lead people” and “manage things”

    Obviously this is a bit simplistic but in any leadership definition it is widely recognised that leaders arise in a wide variety of situations and times and tasks.

    There is also some relationship between leadership and the following personality traits (trait theory)

  • Intelligence
  • Extraversion
  • Conscientious
  • Self efficacy (your confidence and belief you can achieve something
  • Learning flexibility

    In leadership definitions there is still a lack of clarity around how leaders are created and how they create impact.

    For example: Organisations are obsessed with leadership competencies/capabilities such as decision making, communications, drive for results, managing vision and purpose etc…
    This emphasis on trying to deconstruct leadership into small bits runs the danger of

  • Emphasising a few competencies over items such as values, motivation, expertise, social skills, problem solving, learning flexibility etc..
  • Fail to take into account how people use combinations of competencies in order to be effective
  • Don’t help us understand which competencies can be easily developed and those that very difficult
  • Don’t help us understand how important leadership diversity is in changing times and complex contexts.

    More on a leadership development plan here

    So what attributes are important in a leadership definition and how can we understand the appropriate leadership style in management for our organisation?

    The approach I have decide to take here is to look ahead and review the research and current thinking on the futiure trends and challenges and then leave it to you to think about the important leadership characterisitics you might put in your own leadership definition.

    A future focused Leadership Definition
    Change Trend

    Leadership Atrribute

    Increasingly Diverse Workforce—The literature suggests that the workforce will become even more diverse in the future

    Managing Change — as challenges from differing employee needs intensify the literature indicates that future leaders must be more adept at change management,.

    Developing Talent—In order to address growing workforce diversity, leaders will need new skills and capabilities to discover what motivates the people on their teams and to promote growth and development for diverse individuals

    Decreasing Employee Commitment—Literature suggests that retaining good employees will be an important leadership challenge of the future

    as employees in the coming years will be presented with even more career options than today .

    Developing Talent—Future leaders should aim to get better at selecting, developing, and retaining employees that are committed to the organization.

    Increasing Role Complexity—Research notes that organizational roles have become increasingly complex, ambiguous, and stressful. Performance in these roles has become more multifaceted, more demanding, and harder to measure

    Flexibility—To address the challenge of complex roles, research notes that leaders will need to demonstrate increasing flexibility as they are asked to take on multiple roles within their organizations, including that of a strategist, coach, global thinker, change driver, and entrepreneur.

    Leading Employees—Leaders should set clear expectations for how people should work together, meet customer needs, and make decisions to ensure that teamwork, trust, and a positive work environment are not sacrificed for the achievement of business objectives.

    Flatter Organizational Structures—Flatter organizational structures and the delivery of products across horizontal business processes will require future leaders to work with team members residing in multiple locations, such as other business units or functions.

    Building Relationships and Networks—Future leaders must be able to collaborate with others in order to achieve success. As future leaders

    increasingly interact with individuals from differing backgrounds, they must work to effectively lead employees and build and mend relationships across teams, geographies, and constituencies.

    Resourcefulness and Influence—As organizations flatten, leaders will need to

    accomplish tasks through individuals outside their line of reporting. In order to realize success, future leaders should use available resources and their influencing skills to gain commitment through people that outrank them or do not

    report to them.

    Improving Technology—Literature notes that leading virtually is already a reality, and requirements to lead geographically

    dispersed units and teams will only increase in the future.

    Flexibility—As improvements continue in technology, leaders should adjust to become comfortable with communication technology.

    Managing Change —Future leaders must be skilled at change management, as challenges from advances in technology, such as the development of alternate business processes, deepen.

    Increasing Globalization—Globalization will intensify the requirement that senior leaders deal effectively with a complex

    set of constituencies external to their organizations.

    Innovative Thinking—Future leaders should remain up-to-date on international trends that are

    vital to the business. In order to confront global competition, future leaders must be capable of managing present conditions and thinking innovatively and strategically about the future.

    Managing Change —Literature suggests that leaders of the future must be adept

    at change management, as challenges from global competition, such as managing across numerous geographies and markets , intensify.

    More on a leadership definition here

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