Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shaping the Future of Leadership

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change – Thomas Hardy

In a recent USA Today feature ( leaders from various walks of life shared their insights as to what they believe world will look like in 30 years. It was a fascinating read. Here are a few highlights.

Bill Ford, executive chairman of the Ford Motor sees exciting developments in the future of ground transportation over the next three decades: a world in which cars will run on electricity, hydrogen or other energy alternatives and will be interconnected with smart phones in ways that make getting from one place to another more efficient and safer than ever. They have even begun tinkering with systems that monitor pollen counts for asthma suffers and heartbeats for heart patients.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson predicts space flight will be nearly as common for travelers as taking a plane trip. “In the past 30 years, only 500 people have been to space. I suspect in the next 30 years there may be like 5 million people who will have had the opportunity to become astronauts,” he said.

Sebastian Thrun, a Google vice president and Stanford research professor best known for his role in building Google’s driverless cars has some amazing predictions about the future of education. He believes that learning will be free and available to everyone who wants it while operating like a whimsical playground: No one is late for class, failure is not an option, and a lesson looks something like Angry Birds, the physics-based puzzle game.

While it is hard to imagine what life will be like in 30 years these predictions made for compelling reading and speculation. It also caused me to give consideration as to the future of leadership and what it too will look like. We can get a glimpse of what leadership will look like in 30 years by looking to the top companies for leadership development today.

Earlier this year, the Hay Group, the global management consulting firm, released its seventh annual Best Companies for Leadership Study and Top 20 list ( The study ranks the best companies for leadership around the world and examples of how those companies nurture talent and foster innovation. This year, General Electric topped the list, followed by Proctor & Gamble, IBM, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.

Key findings from the Hay Group include: 100% of the Best Companies let all employees behave like leaders. Only 54% of peers do likewise; leadership boosts the bottom line. Best companies outperform the S&P 500 almost 2x over 10 years; 90% of Best Companies let employees bypass the chain of command with an excellent idea; in Best Companies, 95% of senior leaders take time to actively develop others. Only 45% of leaders at peer companies do this.

Shaping the future of leadership is not as complicated as space travel nor does it require futuristic technology. Leadership in 2042 is being determined by our actions and beliefs today. Here are three reminders worth review as you consider the future of leadership.

Build a strong foundation. Your core values and principles are what define you, sustain you, and cause you to endure. The foundations of leadership are built on time-tested principles that include trust, loyalty, relationships, and servanthood to name a few. Re-package and market it any way you choose, but these will always be the underlying principles of whatever “new” leadership trend that emerges.

Invest in others. The succession of leadership and what it will look like in 2042 is being determined by the relationships and investments you make in others today. When you build the leadership potential in others (family, colleagues, students, etc.) you are securing the leadership of the next generation. As the Hay Group points out, those who are committed to building strong leadership in others are the leaders in their industry now and in the future.

Commitment to a personal growth plan. The shape and future of leadership depends on your personal growth plan.  Charlie “Tremendous” Jones summed it up best when he said, “You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.” Personal growth does not happen by accident. It happens when you have a plan and execute it.

Shaping the future of leadership begins one leader at a time and it begins with you. Are you ready?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

* What are your thoughts on shaping the future of leadership? Share them in the comment box below!

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