The transition facing the business sector is so enormous that at this point in time it is very difficult to prepare leaders for the future. It is clear that a new type of leadership is necessary, which requires different qualities, perspectives and working methods from current and new leaders. But due to the exponential number of changes driven by technological and other developments, it is virtually impossible to assess how the situation will be at any time in the future. So how are you preparing for the future? Or more to the point: what are you actually preparing for?
When we talk about the changeable society in which we live, we often refer to it as a VUCA environment. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In short, it means we are living in a changeable world in which it is no longer clear what is being influenced by what. A world in which more than one factor is at play and there is more than one truth. This is making it extra difficult for leaders to adapt their style of leadership. Because which choice is the right one?
There is good HR-related metaphor for this, namely the assessment of new candidates. In the past, such an assessment was based on a number of competencies that showed you whether the candidate had a suitable profile. But now, how can we say what is true? A particular profile is ideally suited to a particular position at a particular company at a given moment, but in two years’ time that may no longer be the case. Does this then mean that the candidate is not a suitable leader? No, but different competencies are required at different moments. This is where leadership agility is needed, which is the ability of leaders to adapt themselves and the team to new situations.
To succeed in the VUCA environment, a particular type of leader is required: a ‘Learning Leader’. Learning leaders are flexible, they learn from their mistakes and they can take on a diverse range of challenges. Here you can clearly see the leadership qualities of the future emerging. It is about visionaries who understand and can assess the world around them. They can network and collaborate, they are flexible and they can adapt to changing situations. These learning leaders breathe innovation: they realise that this is the key to a future-proof organisation. Adjusting to a changing society, anticipating (new) situations and charting a new course before changes even happen, and daring to... decide. These are the qualities that make these leaders successful where others have failed.
What makes a leader a leader? Or better still: what makes a leader a good leader? This varies from one situation to the next... After all, what works in one situation is totally inappropriate in another. And this makes it difficult for the leaders of today and the future to determine which type of leadership is the right one. So does the perfect leader actually exist? In a nutshell: no. But when a leader abides by a number of basic principles and acts as a Learning Leader, he or she can go a long way... ■
The is the first article out of a series articles Leadership Academy Amsterdam will publish until the end of 2018 about Leadership of the future. Are you interested in a preview in the next article, go to .