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Future Leadership Skills: The 10 Must-Have for Success

Andrew Langat
November 21, 2023
a professional taking session on future leadership skills
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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”- Søren Kierkegaard

The business landscape is constantly changing with new technologies, including machine learning and AI slowly taking center stage in decision-making. Leaders have no option but to adapt to the new trends, and whereas leadership fundamentals, such as the need to have strategy and vision, will remain the same. This means aspiring leaders need to step out of their comfort zone and arm themselves with the knowledge and the skills to be future-ready.

Why is this important?

This is vital because whereas technological advances will always happen and those who don't make deliberate efforts to prepare including learning the necessary skills for leadership development, tend to fare badly in the long-term.

So, what are the future leadership skills and abilities required for success? And why does it matter for a good leader to learn these skills?

In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the following skills that are vital for a future leader.

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Skill 1: Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Future leaders will experience complex problems that require strategic problem-solving and critical thinking. Let's take the example of Alex, a future tech leader who now leads in an age where the use of Artificial intelligence (AI) has become commonplace. Increasingly in his line of work, he needs to incorporate AI in solving problems, but without losing the human touch that relies on and integrates critical thinking.

For leaders like Alex, new challenges need new ideas, and analyzing situations and making well-informed decisions will be vital skills required to guide your team to success.

Why do leaders need critical thinking and problem-solving skills?

In his book, Critical Thinking: An Essential Guide to Improving Your Decision-Making Skills and Problem-Solving Abilities along with Avoiding Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases, Jerel Forman outlines the importance of critical thinking for leaders as follows:

  • It helps in forming beliefs by questioning long-held doctrines through the Socratic method.
  • We better understand the full scope of things, i.e., we avoid not seeing the forest for the trees.
  • We are more adept at using rationality and logic to form our side of an argument or issue.
  • We are more able to connect with people in many different situations.
  • We practice continuous improvement as leaders.
  • We better make sense of the world around us.

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Skill 2: Adaptive Leadership

Goals, strategies, and values all rely on having a vision. That said, successful leaders always adapt and use this as a practice to propel their companies or businesses to success. Future leaders need to understand adaptive leadership so they can effectively respond to the demands of a competitive environment.

Adaptive visions enable tomorrow's leaders to be agile when facing any changes that may occur and successfully lead through an uncertain company's future.

In the book Leadership 2.0, Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves argue that adaptive leadership is made of the following components:

  • Emotional intelligence (self awareness, self management, social awareness, & relation-management)
  • Organization justice (decision fairness, information sharing, outcome concern)
  • Character (integrity, credibility, values difference)
  • Development (lifelong learning, developing others)

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Skill 3: Communication and Collaboration

Communication is an essential skill that future leaders must have to succeed. With the age of artificial intelligence upon us, leaders can use these resources to break down information for their teams. But they still need to be able to convey that information skillfully.

Future leaders can adopt the 5 C's of Communication to bring about better workplace relationships and inspire the workforce to stay on course to achieve the goals set.

Communication skills will help future leaders develop relationships where diverse teams can share ideas and collaborate toward achieving the company's goals.

Future leaders also need to create an environment that allows open communication, so that leaders and employees can share ideas and constructive feedback can be given. This gives employees the confidence to showcase their skills toward achieving the goals set.

Future leaders must be able to bring people together and make them feel like they’re part of the solution to get the most out of them in a workplace environment.

Why does effective communication matter in the workplace? (now & in the future)

In her book Communication In The Workplace: Everything You Need To Know About Effective Communication Strategies At Work To Be A Better Leader, Shirley Cole outlines the following reasons for implementing effective communication in the workplace:

  • Creating a healthy work environment.
  • Helping remove cultural barriers.
  • Increasing bottom-line profits.
  • Boosting customer service & retention.
  • Increasing employee productivity.
  • Providing transparency within the organization.
Individuals exhibit critical thinking and problem-solving skills during a leadership strategy session surrounded by charts and graphs on a meeting table.

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Skill 4: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the most essential skills a leader should possess. Leading a workforce with emotional intelligence requires leaders to harness different employee experiences and consider people's different lived experiences to help their teams achieve success.

Future leaders of organizations must have emotional intelligence, especially in an environment where technology and artificial intelligence will be the center stage of many companies.

Future leaders should be willing to listen, change their minds, and respect the expertise of others. They should create a comfortable psychological safety zone for their employees and be willing to demonstrate empathy to undertake complex or difficult workplace conversations with keen sensitivity and tact.

Future leaders must find a way to work well with others and attract talented personnel with strong technical skills to help a company stay ahead in their operations and dominate global markets.

For more insight, check this out: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership.

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Skill 5: Adaptability and Flexibility

In today's business world, adaptability and flexibility have become indispensable skills. These effective leadership skills require leaders to manage rapid change.

Let's take the example of Sarah, who leads a payment aggregation company with operations across three countries. Almost overnight, regulation in one of the core markets changes, exposing the business to potential losses. As an adaptable and flexible leader, she uses regulation arbitrage to shift to jurisdictions that will offset potential losses.

As part of adaptability, future leaders should understand the importance of embracing the technological age, improving employee digital experience, participating in networking events, practicing strategic thinking, and anticipating regulatory changes.

These will assist in navigating uncertain times — which are bound to happen in business — by calmly adjusting to new realities while maintaining a clear sense of direction that will focus the organization toward success.

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Skill 6: Global Cultural Competence

In a modern workplace, you are likely to interact with people from multicultural backgrounds, and leaders need to find a way of incorporating new cultures within their ranks. This way, everyone feels welcomed and included.

To lead effectively, future leaders must possess the ability to identify and harness the distinct perspectives that each team member possesses.

Understanding other people's cultures and backgrounds will allow the leader to build strong ties and create an environment where employees grow and help create a good workplace.

A multicultural workplace will welcome any global citizen to its ranks and can be a way of attracting diverse talent.

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Skill 7: Innovative Problem-Solving

For a business, innovative problem-solving drives long-term growth. And for future leaders, innovative problem-solving should be an essential skill to learn.

Innovative problem-solving skills embrace creativity, critical thinking, and new perspectives, expanding the possibilities beyond traditional approaches and resulting in unique solutions.

Moreover, when employees have innovative leaders, they will strive to get out of their comfort zones and try fresh perspectives.

One good example of innovative problem-solving is the use of reusable rockets by SpaceX. This tackled the expensive problem of discarding rockets and lowered the cost of launching into space, which can potentially revolutionize space travel.

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Skill 8: Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is unlike other leadership styles as it requires leaders to serve and focus on others, instead of on their own personal gain. It focuses more on the needs of others, the team, employees, and supporting others in developing new skills and confidence they need to succeed.

This approach is relevant now and will continue to be in the future.

Servant leadership differs from traditional leadership in that it prioritizes the well-being of people over company or business goals.

Future leaders must display the values of a servant leader, where they lead to serve the needs of others.

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Skill 9: Technological Fluency

The technological age is upon us and most companies and organizations are modernizing their operations. This means that everyone who works in such organizations must possess technical know-how, including being willing to engage in machine learning.

Some leaders are afraid to embrace technology; they think that it carries a lot of uncertainties and they leave it to the IT department. However, future leaders must find a way of accepting technology. They don't necessarily have to be tech experts, they just have to be tech-savvy or digitally fluent.

This is vital because, as working conditions increasingly become digital, it will become increasingly difficult for leaders to lead their teams without the necessary skills.

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Skill 10: Teamwork and Collaboration

Future leaders need to promote collaboration and initiative among their teams. They should provide opportunities for individuals to develop their skills and showcase their talents, regardless of their position in the company.

By utilizing innovative approaches like design thinking, leaders can bring together diverse teams to tackle complex problems and find solutions. This fosters a sense of accountability and shared vision among team members, ultimately leading to successful outcomes for the business.

Future leaders must be able to promote collaboration and build trust among their teams. They should also develop proper communication channels to relay messages.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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Let Highrise Future-Proof Your Leadership Skills

Growth-minded individuals might want to pursue leadership positions in the future. The best way to prepare for this is to learn about the skills required before a leadership role becomes available. Coaching can be a wonderful opportunity to learn the ropes of leadership.

At Highrise, we have the tools and the coaches to assist you in preparing to succeed as a leader.

Reach out today to learn more about what we can offer you.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.