By: Sharad Mehra, CEO - Asia Pacific GUS | May 10, 2020

Leadership in an uncertain world

In today's digital workplace, the tech savvy leaders have a competitive advantage, and without a doubt are able to drive and increase productivity through technology. There is no telling how much more this will be necessary in the future, however, what we know, is that technology is here to present endless possibilities for tomorrow's workplace. The traditional workplace as we know it is radically transforming, industry processes are evolving. In every industry, we are seeing disruptive applications and systems. Every business is becoming digital. This, in turn, requires that skills related to technology are necessary to ensure leadership survival in today's workplace and in the future.

How can businesses cope with this challenge?
Today's leaders need a more intimate understanding of technology for them to move their businesses to the next level of growth, as technology is impacting their businesses both now and in the future. Forward thinking strategies focused on the integration of technology with traditional forms of working are necessary to tackle the fast pace of innovation in today's workplace, to prepare organisations to be resilient, stay competitive and sustainable for future generations.
Classic examples are Uber, Airbnb, WhatsApp, the Khan Academy, among others who have emerged to displace their more experienced and credentialed competitors. The rules of engagement have changed completely, this is the age of survival of the smartest, most resilient and most innovative. While 10 years ago most did not envisage the fast pace of technology and its impact, today traditional hotels compete with Airbnb, and traditional telecommunications companies are competing with applications such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype.
Leaders need to adapt to current innovations and stay abreast with the current technology. , because it is only those that can sustain and stay ahead of the curve who will survive.

So, what style of leadership will work?
There is no telling what will work in this uncertain environment, however some understanding of technology and how it can best be used to keep organisations competitive will help sustain leaders in today's workplace and in the future.
Today's leaders need to shed their current leadership styles, adopt multiple approaches where they can seamlessly move to a new way of doing things, depending on the situation, and adopt new ways of doing things to enhance their performance.
Technical leadership will only take leaders to a certain point, but agile, emotionally intelligent and adaptive leaders who can navigate through these tough times will survive the age of uncertainty.
High levels of self-awareness and a passion for lifelong learning in leaders, as well as an ability to cultivate and nurture relationships, sustain values of integrity, fairness and inclusivity, will drive success. There is no stopping to learn in this generation, or in the future. Lifelong learning will keep leaders in check with current innovations, and for those who stop, there is no telling whether there is a future for them.
With the business world becoming uncertain, only the mavericks will sustain businesses; leaders who think outside the box, inspire their people to do the same and implement outside-the-box solutions will survive.
According to the discussions at the World Economic Forum, 'by some estimates, almost half of today's professions could be automated by 2025, with machines set to displace most of human labour'. This presents both challenges and opportunities for tomorrow's leaders, and requires more agility and flexibility in adopting new ways of working to lead in an uncertain world.
Conventional methods apply in a conventional world, but those days have gone. Corporates are known for hiring the conformist, but perhaps it's now the age of the rebel, the disruptor and the maverick who have the ability to take on unconventional approaches to problem solving and solutions design, and apply creative methods to produce solutions in today's businesses, because we need game changers. We must allow entry of a new mindset to doing things, and encourage more creative solutions and design thinking.
Social consciousness is critical, especially if true leadership transformation is to take place. A leader must have a genuine, and deep sense of commitment towards their community and its development. That social consciousness will help sustain relationships between people, organisations and the community, and drive organisational competitiveness. The ability of the leader to transform themselves at a moment's notice is the rare ability currently required to sustain leadership in an uncertain world.
Likewise, as the world changes rapidly, we need to look at our education system and honestly assess how we are preparing learners for tomorrow's workplace. The task is even more difficult as we are not sure of what tomorrow holds. Educators must realise that we can no longer teach learners using traditional ways; teaching methods must evolve to ensure that learners become competitive and that they can survive in tomorrow's world. Education needs to rise to create leaders with the agile competencies that will sustain them in tomorrow's business world. Fluidity and flexibility in pedagogy, and ensuring that modules on design thinking, disruptive technology and social consciousness need to be part of every programme taught in higher education.
Cosmetic changes to the education system and curriculum will not achieve the results for the ideal 21st century leader. Radical and bold steps must be taken to address the current challenges in our education system, to enable ALL our learners to participate in the world of tomorrow, which is a more uncertain one than the one we are experiencing today.We need to explore truly multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional approaches to curriculum development, standards and assessments, and begin to apply next generation technology-enhanced learning solutions to try to prepare today's learners to be the best leaders of tomorrow.
While these uncertainties present challenges, we must also open our eyes to see expansive opportunities, and prepare today's young people to realize these opportunities, so that they can be a part of the new generation of innovators contributing towards national and global economic development.




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