As the leaders of tomorrow, what lies ahead of us?

Recently I attended the Townsville Enterprise’s roundtable discussion with Professor Genevieve Bell, discussing what the future jobs and education may look like across not just North Queensland but the world. Professor Bell’s appointments include; the Director of the 3A Institute, Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University (ANU).

I am a transformational change tragic and the moment you include concepts like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Computing and Robotics I get all excited.  What I found most insightful was the view that the future is not just around the corner, it’s already here.

Today, there are a number of professions like Para Legals, Financial Analysts, Bank Tellers and Recruiters facing uncertain futures because of the advances in AI and digital automation. Even more interesting is the fact that in 2017 a computer program called AlphaGo (developed by humans to beat the world champion of the board game ‘Go’), has been beaten 100 times in a row by a new program (AalphaGo Zero), that taught itself how to play the game in just 40 days.

If a computer teaching a computer doesn’t scare you, then pull out your old VHS and watch the 1983 movie “War Games” starting Matthew Broderick.

The very world we live in is going to change in a way that many of us have never seen. But what really sparks my interest is what role leaders will have in this transformation and how will this shape the workplace of tomorrow.

Over the past 12 months I have been exploring the evolution of leadership since the emergence of the industrial revolution to what many futurists are saying, what leaders of tomorrow will need in order to be successful. I have consolidated my thoughts around this and believe that the leaders of tomorrow will need the following key traits and competencies in order to be successful.


When we think of traits in relation to leadership we think of things like strong, confident and self-assured, qualities we all try to have. Traits are often linked to personality and depending on which psychological theory you align to, traits can be fixed from an early age, or adaptable over a lifetime. In the context of a digital leader I believe that we all have ability to flex from our innate preferences to one that is more in line with our current needs. After all, neuro plasticity is real and our brain does have the capacity to develop new neural pathways. So what traits are relevant in the new world:

  1. Visionary – Leaders will not only need to understand the “Why” of their organisation, but to also connect others, both internal and external, to the reason for being. They will be required to find ways to cultivate an innovation-oriented culture focussed on finding new and emerging approaches to achieving the organsiations purpose. Leaders of tomorrow will need to be able sell to everyone a vision that is constantly evolving in order to remain current and successful.

How to become Visionary – Being a visionary leader is about understanding your organisations current state as well as what it may look like into the future. It’s about exploring the possibilities without any boundaries and then identifying which one will help you get to where you want to be. It’s takes creativity and taking risks in a structured and planned approach.

  1. Curiosity – Due to the emergence of new systems, processes and the expectations of how we interact with customers, leaders will encounter problems they have not experienced before. They will need to explore the untested waters to find new ways to solve new problems. Leaders will need to be curious about how the work they do today will be entirely different within 5 years. The issues are that for many people they have been taught that curiosity can only lead you to trouble. In fact, if you consider our current education system our levels of curiosity or divergent thinking, declines as we get older.

How to become more curious – Learning to become more curious is often about asking questions to seek more information. It’s about suspending judgement until you have a diverse range of perspectives. Devote yourself to lifelong learning and self-discovery. Read and have people around you to challenge your thinking patterns so that you see ‘all that could be’ and not just ‘all that is’.

  1. Collaborative – No longer will leaders be able to operate in silos. Traditional hierarchal organisations are being transformed into matrix models where leaders will be required to collaborate across multiple work functions to achieve their outcomes. No longer will leaders need to be the subject matter experts, personal connections will be the key.

How to become more collaborative – Being collaborative is about recognising that you are not the one with answers. Collaboration by its very nature is about bringing together a diverse group of people to look at things differently. For leaders of tomorrow being collaborative is about investing time in communities of practices, industry networks and internal working groups. Get to know what each area in your organisation does and how it goes about it. Explore the issues they are facing and build strong relationships.


Competencies are typically a mix of behaviours and skills. If you demonstrate leadership competencies, it’s understood that you have behaviours that are strengthened by certain skills you have developed over time.  Competencies are generally behaviours that are easily identified and measured. So what competency will be relevant in the new world:

  1. Emotional Intelligence (EI) – It doesn’t matter what EI model you use, being emotionally intelligent will be more important than it is today. Leaders will need to be able to not only manage their own emotional reactions in times of uncertainty, but also be empathetic to their team’s emotional state. Constant change and ambiguity will bring with it heightened levels of stress, meaning leaders will need to be more resilient and emotionally aware of their environment. The best part is that the research shows us that EI can in fact be developed and will be one of the main tools in your leadership playbook into the future.

How to become more Emotionally Intelligent – The foundations of being emotionally intelligent starts with becoming aware of how we feel each day and why we might feel this way. There are a number of different methods to help with becoming more self-aware, ranging from keeping a mood dairy for 24 hours through to completing an EI assessment. For leaders we would recommend the GENOS leadership profile as its focus is on the EI competencies around leadership. Once you have the foundation you can build your EI competencies further.

What I have been able to piece together through all this noise about digital disruption, AI and Automation is a snapshot, of what I see, are the common themes in relation to becoming a digital leader. Of course, there will always be the need for knowledge acquisition around the systems we use and the ‘coding’ skills people will need in the future. This is not where I believe the greatest challenge will be.

The leaders of tomorrow will need to be innovative, creative and collaborative. They will need to be able to not only create a vision for tomorrow, but be able to sell this vision to others. Finally, leaders need to invest in building the EI capabilities now in order to not only manage the teams of tomorrow, but to also help their teams navigate the AI and Automation revolution.

The future workplace will be different that the one we are use to now. But as humans we have an amazing ability to adapt to changes in our environment. In fact, we have been doing this for over 50,000 years. The key for the leaders of tomorrow is to recognise that change is not coming it’s already here and now is the time to build the skills we all need in order to evolve and survive.

Want to learn more… Contact Scott today!