SGR leads City Council retreats that enable cities to develop strategic plans that focus on outcomes that are 20 years away. We often ask the question, “How will your city look in 20 years?” Let’s adapt that question to make it more personal and ask it this way: “What will outstanding leadership look like 20 years from now? How will outstanding leadership be different then from outstanding leadership today?”
In many ways, future leaders will have to do the same things that great leaders do today. Things like modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, communicating effectively, and building effective teams are going to continue to be really important for leaders. Those things aren’t going to change. However, the impact of more advanced technologies and the speed at which they are introduced will bring unique challenges to effective leaders.
- Leaders must be educators. Leaders will need to educate followers, as well as Councils and Boards, on the important ramifications of various technology changes. As the pace of change increases, leaders will need to show the way that organizations and societies can maximize these improvements. Mediocre leaders will complain that people “just don’t get it!” Great leaders will communicate effectively so that people will see it for themselves.
- Leaders must be calm. Change causes a drop in self-esteem at just the time a person needs self-esteem the most. There are many reasons for this, but the important thing to note is that as technology continues to grow and change more and more things at a faster and faster rate, one thing we can predict is that people will sometimes feel overwhelmed by it. As exciting as these things are, one possible downside is that people will feel like they are in a constant stage of agitation. Great leaders of the future will need to be very sensitive to this and find ways to keep people calm without becoming reactionary to the advantages of technology.
- Leaders must be better. Speed creates danger. Things are changing faster and faster. That’s not going to stop. The reality is that when you are driving down main street at 20 mph, you need the same skills that you need when you are driving 65 mph down the freeway. However, a mistake at 20 mph down a sleepy little main street is not as threatening as a mistake at 65 mph on the freeway. The same will be so for leadership. The speed of change will mean that although the basic leadership skills that we need today may not be that different for the future, it will be even more important that leaders master the basics and execute them with precision.