Building Future-Oriented Leaders: Developing inherent skills for success in a rapidly evolving world

We are entering a new era. With astounding leaps in artificial intelligence, large language models (LLMs), such as Chat GPT, are likened to the transformative impact of electricity and computers in driving productivity improvements. Given these rapid changes, leaders face enormous challenges, as do the L&D professionals charged with their development. 

What must leaders understand, believe, and do to keep up with technology’s transformative impact on business? We know that simple delegation, planning, and organization are insufficient to keep leaders ahead of the productivity curve. Furthermore, the skills required of today’s leaders are more difficult to train and develop than the skills of yesterday. Why? Because they are more inherent than technical, based on dispositional traits that are part of a person’s make-up or personality. And personalities don’t change much over time. For example, you can try to train an introvert to become more extroverted. Certainly, introverts can develop the ability to interact with groups and engage with unfamiliar individuals. However, relying on non-natural skills is typically temporary, as our natural tendencies resurface when we’re tired or given the choice of how to respond. Similarly, we can learn to take initiative, but it may never be our default mode. See the difference?

Competencies for Future-Focused Leaders

While there are many competencies that will drive the leader of the future, we’ve identified three key future-oriented inherent skill sets. These can be classified as things the future-focused leader needs to be able to understand, believe, and do.

What will leaders need to understand?

Systems thinking involves the expansion of a leader’s perspective beyond their primary role to consider the interconnections between various functions within the entire organization, including the customer’s perspective. Can your leaders use systems thinking to identify opportunities to connect processes, debug systems, overcome bottlenecks, and see the workflow from start to finish? To do so requires critical thinking and the ability to break out of one’s mold of singular, functional focus to understand the holistic enterprise.

What must leaders believe?

Disruption used to have a negative connotation. Now, positive disruption is a standard mode of operation and must be embraced. Leaders need to embrace the belief that acting as catalysts for progress during times of disruption enables them to drive change faster than their competitors. Being a leader in today’s environment means creating a road map where there is no road; only leading indicators from which to work. Teams need leaders who can fight through the fog and manage disruption to adapt to new software systems, new ways of working, new roles, and new customer demands.

What must leaders be able to do?

Leaders need to be market makers. Most leaders can now be connected to customers in ways they never imagined. That means foreseeing opportunities to educate customers on services and creating demand to generate revenue. When leaders are responding in real-time to customer needs, they need to build and rebuild visions and strategies constantly. Each time the vision shifts, leaders have to rally teams and generate energy that turns into action. 

How do we train inherent skills?

A portion of leadership effectiveness today depends on innate personality and inherent skills that can be difficult to train. This begs the question: how do we increase our high-potential leaders’ abilities to meet these critical demands?

One word: depth. 

Specifically, the depth of the learning process, which should include:

  • Depth of context. The more closely the challenges align with the learner’s actual job; the easier it becomes to connect difficult skills to those challenges. Context is crucial because it eliminates the need to guess future or unlikely challenges. When the learner’s context is well-prepared, the experience becomes more enriching and effectively connects them to the relevant stimuli.
  • Depth of playing in the gray and failing forward in experiential learning. These can be achieved with learning experiences that offer opportunities to grapple with complex topics. At decision points, well-written answer choices that balance best practices and common failure points help to increase learner engagement and improve critical thinking skills.
  • Depth of practice and discussion in the process of learning the skill, which can be accomplished using a team-based learning experience that facilitates deep discussions of critical topics, will elevate engagement and retention.
  • Depth of feedback that the learner receives on performance. Feedback should be aligned with a clear definition of what good looks like, as applicable. Ideally, feedback extends beyond the learning experience and into the day-to-day work environment.
  • Depth of the follow-through action planning and work on the job with other coaches and managers. As we’ve seen, changing dispositional traits requires ongoing awareness and practice because the leader is working against their default modes of operating. Mastering these new behaviors often requires scaffolding that goes beyond a one-time learning experience.

Blueline’s scenario simulations provide the depth of context, application, and collaboration necessary to train leaders in the competencies needed to thrive in the future. Reach out to our team to learn more about the role of immersive simulations in strategic change initiatives.

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