Navigating the countless ‘trends to watch in 2020’ lists, articles and surveys can be overwhelming especially when it comes to deciding which ones should inform your leadership strategy going forward. Instead of getting bogged down by all of this expert opinion, our team collated and interrogated the factors we believe are going to have the greatest impact on leadership and business in the next decade.
There are two observations that the team noted:
- For every trend, there is an equal and opposite trend.
- The key tensions in the world have remained the same over many decades.
With this in mind, it was easier to narrow down the trends which we felt would be most relevant to leadership during this new decade: Human vs Machine; and Individual Expression vs The Collective.
Human vs Machine
The advancement of technology is increasing exponentially with 5G, robotics, mechanisation and AI all being a part of this disruption. As history shows us when there are massive advancements in technology both work (jobs, strategies, employment structures) and the people that complete that work (technical abilities, qualifications, soft skills) need to change to accommodate this advancement.
The Swiss futurist Gerd Leonard was a recent guest at one of our client engagements. He advises that this tension is not actually between human and machine, but rather Humanity and Machine. If, as Leonard says, ‘every process and service that can be digitised, will be digitised’, how then do we ensure that the creators’ biases are mitigated, that the technical skills needed are transferred to the majority and that the best possible ethics are incorporated into any technological developments?
With there being more mobile phones than people on this planet, we are already using machines for simple tasks that we previously used our mental capacity for, and, although many of us would prefer to ignore this fact, every move we make – both physically and digitally – is both traceable and monitored. Transport companies are considering driverless vehicles, humans can now be microchipped and social media plays an influencing role in global politics.
Technology and technological disruptions are everywhere and for the leadership of any organisation, the key is to be discerning. To use and engage with the technology that works for your business both economically and culturally and to ensure that your personal values are not undermined by the tech that is introduced into your business. Your tech should work for you, not you for it. The pertinent question to ask here is: What problem does this technology solve for my business?
Individual Expression vs The Collective
This trend is ubiquitous – from marketing being tailored to the individual and on-demand production of goods to climate activism. Diversity and Inclusion is a constant topic of conversation, at all levels of business and government, and should be a key driver in the configuration of any team.
There is an increased requirement that each person’s individuality is catered for rather than having everyone fitting into the status quo. Workplaces need to accommodate genders other than cisgendered male or female, and opportunities to disconnect from the busy-ness of shared office space are almost considered mandatory.
Not only that, but there is a growing fluidity around how individuals identify – both in their personal and professional lives. Accenture has titled these individuals ‘Liquid People’ and the onus is on leaders in the workplace to accommodate shifting individual identities as well as career changes or preferences.
On the flip-side of the same coin, it is common knowledge that humanity is facing a climate crisis and that our individual efforts need to ensure that the collective is taken care of. The design of systems, transport, homes, and cities is changing to accommodate this awareness while consumers often require a business or event to consider their environmental impact before supporting them.
Remote working and the gig economy are direct results of both the above trends. Individuals want to do the work they wish to, in the time and place they want to, and technology has advanced to allow this. Reducing time, and energy, commuting – be it by road or air – impacts the planet and remote working allows companies to structure their physical offices in more cost-effective and collaborative ways. The gig economy allows organisations to have a flexible workforce and for individuals to choose their contributions to society rather than being forced to meet specific KPIs each year.
So, what does this mean for leaders?
- How does one lead a remote team working in different time zones?
- How do you create a strong organisational culture when many people only work on ‘gig’s’, some of them remotely with your team constantly in flux?
- How do businesses shift their focus from being solely on profit to being more orientated towards holistically benefiting humanity?
- What does this mean for career advancement, employee benefits and on-the-job training?
What was clear to all of us though, is that technological disruption and change are the status quo and making a personal effort to develop strong leadership skills is the most important contribution any one of us can make to our collective global future.
In our next article, our Managing Director, Anne Hartslief, has considered the three key leadership skills a leader requires in order to manage these trends and bring their business into the next decade. Send me your details here and we will send this directly to your inbox.