Over the last five years, the nature of work has changed dramatically – and the future of work requires these six vital skills. The path from manager to leader is layered with multiple challenges, including new technologies, a disconnected workforce, and changing employee expectations. If you aspire to inspire, and take your career to the next level, accessing new leadership skills (in the context of the future of work) is a great way to prepare yourself for what’s next.
In order to lead more effectively, regardless of your current title or position, there’s a new language you need to understand. (The six critical elements are outlined below). Because the way you communicate will teach people how to treat you, how to pay you and yes, how to follow your ideas as a leader. Peter Drucker said, “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Elevating your career means understanding how to communicate in new ways, and these six skills will help you to be positioned for new opportunities:
Creativity – In a survey conducted by IBM, over 1500 leaders around the world were asked about the number one quality they look for in leaders. That number one quality? Creativity. The report, called Capitalizing On Complexity, said that “In an uncertain and volatile world CEOs realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics.” Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. They invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and take balanced risks. What’s the most creative thing you’ve done in your career? What are you creating right now, for yourself, your team, your organization? Creativity doesn’t just mean arts and crafts – finding creative solutions to today’s problems is key to the future of work.
Innovation – According to a 2018 survey from PWC, creativity and innovation go hand in hand. Together, those are the top two skills that 77% of CEOs seek. Today, work rarely follows a pattern. True, there are elements of consistency required for any business process. Consider that the nature of work has changed since the Industrial Revolution: most people are not working on an assembly line, repeating the same pattern over and over. If you want to prepare for the future of work, get ready to innovate. The gig economy is a great example, as millions of workers move easily from one opportunity to the next – offering different services and innovating for a variety of employers. Create a pattern, don’t follow one.
Empathy – Consider the story of Anne: she was in her second month of nursing school when her professor gave her a test. The test seemed fairly easy, but the final question was a bit of a show-stopper: What is the name of the woman who cleans the school? The nursing student realized that she had seen the woman many times. But her name was a mystery. She turned in her paper, with a blank on the final question. Anne asked the teacher, “Will that final question count towards our grade?” The prof replied, “Paying attention to the people around you always matters to your grade. And your career.” Recognizing the people around you, and the contribution they make, is an important skill – how strong is your empathy towards others?
Listening – Forbes contributor, John Baldoni, shares that leadership starts with listening. Indeed, the mantra that “none of us is as smart as all of us” is easy to see. Still, many leaders are only in love with the sound of their own voice, so listening is difficult when there is an ego blockage. As Yogi Berra famously said, “In theory, practice and theory are the same. In practice, they are not.” One of the most powerful portions of my leadership workshop focuses on that often-forgotten skill: truly listening to what others have to share. It takes courage, and focus, to take your attention off of yourself, your phone, your DISC profile, your outfit and your hairstyle…so that you can hear what matters most. The key to listening? Tap in to your inner detective. Get curious about the conversation, and look for what you haven’t heard before. Ask questions that show you are tuned in and turned on to the subject at hand. And show how you are going to take action with the information you gather – because active listening is the kind that leaders always practice!
Emotional Intelligence – Are you able to monitor and manage your own emotional state at work? That’s the central theme of EQ, or emotional intelligence. For leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence, conflict isn’t a catastrophe. Because understanding your own emotions and the emotional states of others means you can observe those emotions – not be consumed by them. Want to test your own EQ and get ready for the future of work? Think about your last meeting. Look to your own intuition like a leader and ask yourself, “How was everyone doing? What were people feeling about the discussion, issues and personalities in that room?” What did you sense beyond what you heard? Understanding your own emotional state is the first step in self-leadership, and the future of work demands clear-headed insights to tap into the other skills on this list.
Persistence – The writer Elbert Hubbard said, “The greatest mistake you can make in life is continually fearing you will make one.” Do you know anyone who had a tough relationship – maybe a bad breakup or divorce – and yet it’s because of that experience that they have become a good partner? Remember: Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Babe Ruth and Oprah Winfrey were all fired at some point in their careers. But that event didn’t define them, did it? Persistence is wired into our DNA, if we choose to tap into it. And one word can point you there. That word? Because. When you see that it’s because of your past that you want to create a new future, you realize that you don’t have to give up. Remember, the past reminds us – it doesn’t define us. Sometimes bad relationships, bad jobs and bad ideas happen. That’s not a sign of failure – that’s the way life works! The guy who hit the home run did so because he struck out – and tried something new! Remember, a new course of action is always available. You can always choose to try again. Unless, of course, you choose to live in the past (how’s that working out for you?) A better way to look at the future of work: because of what others have done, because of your past experience, how are you going to bring innovation, creativity, empathy and emotional intelligence into your next conversation?
Transitioning from leader to manager starts with a change in focus. A commitment to your future means a commitment to the future of work – and an understanding that when you change your communication, you change your results. Take time to understand how the way you communicate – sharing empathy, emotional intelligence, persistence and listening. These six qualities will bring your leadership skills to life.
Chris Westfall , Contributor, Careers, 22 Nov 2019.