Leadership is ever evolving—it isn’t an act, it’s a lifestyle. Real leaders don’t just think about leadership all the time, they live it day in and day out until it becomes second nature. They adapt to the times.
In the current era of lightning-speed changes and 24/7 connectivity, a willingness to learn is needed more than ever to become and, more importantly, stay a relevant leader. It is simply true that some leadership methods that worked in the past won’t work going forward..
The era we are in is uniquely challenging for leaders, we are seeing demographic and tech advances that are both exciting and daunting at once. Consider that by 2020, approximately 50% of the workforce will be millennials (born between 1981-1997 according to Pew Research) bringing about a dramatic shift in the way we work, the way we communicate and the values that will likely matter in the workplace.
Meanwhile, the way we collect and consume information has accelerated almost beyond comprehension. Speaking at a recent Techonomy conference, Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, said, “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of man through 2003.” This rapid expansion of available information has both welcome and unwelcome consequences. We are better informed today than ever before, but the sheer amount of facts, figures, and opinions that constantly bombard us can be overwhelming.
Further, the lines between our digital, physical and biological spheres are blending together like a smoothie as we enter what the World Economic Forum is referring to as the “fourth industrial revolution – we have moved beyond the 3rd or digital revolution”- and some experts say the pace of the fourth revolution will be10 times that of the first.
To be successful in an environment of unprecedented tech advances and demographic change, we have to rethink leadership qualities and behaviors to enable effectiveness across generations and styles. Our ability to do this will define our success.
So what qualities will matter the most for leaders of the future? The first quality we highlight is one that gets a lot of lip service, but seems to fall by the wayside in the bustle of the connected and fast paced work environment we operate within: trust.
In researching our recent book, The Leadership Mind Switch, we canvassed hundreds of C-suite executives but we also wanted to learn from the “up and comers”—the leaders of the future. We asked more than 500 Gen X and Y (Millennial) professionals what three words best typify the qualities of ideal leadership. The top responses were all variations of the words “trust,” “trusted” and “trustworthy.”
As we further discussed this topic, we decided that the term “true blue” best describes this trait. For us, true blue is a step beyond “being trusted”—it also includes the idea of authenticity and transparency. Historically, the expression “true blue” goes back to the medieval period in a time when all colors were given symbolic significance. Blue was the symbol of loyalty, constancy, faithfulness, and truth.
Aside from trust, the three other traits that our work illuminates as key to leading across generations and styles are: confidence, enlightenment and tenacity. True blue leaders who are kindly confident, constantly learning and tenacious will have a clear advantage in making the mind switch to becoming tomorrow’s role models for the next generation of leaders.