Leadership: Adapting to Today’s Harsh Realities

The world in which we live is going through fundamental shifts – simultaneous changes that are literally turning everything, as we know it, on its head. Leaders of today and tomorrow are challenged with addressing these aspects to drive the business forward.

From the influence of technology, to a struggling world economy veiled in high unemployment, protectionism and a depleting middle class, most of us are at odds with these concurrent shifts in events that are disrupting our livelihoods and expectations of career paths.

We must overcome our fear of fundamental shifts and learn how to adapt to the new reality. One could not have fathomed the news of robots and computers displacing highly skilled workers in the near term. But that is today’s harsh reality.

Large corporations simply are not ready. While consumer behavior and expectations continue to evolve, the businesses have not kept pace. Companies have experienced a deterioration of control, despite knowing the eventual need for upheaving the precious infrastructure of the organization.

In the next decade, leadership will take many sharp turns in the journey.  These current trends will challenge organizational leadership.

  • Globalization has opened the borders and has given rise to emerging markets with an evolving middle class. Pressure from global competition is quickly elevating more nimble companies to the forefront while those within the Fortune 500, mired in traditional practices and legacy structures are falling to the wayside: Blockbuster, Borders, Eastman Kodak, among others. More companies are or will be integrating automation capabilities to streamline process, improve productivity and increase speed and accuracy in communication within the organization and to all customer touch points.

For leaders, the need to adapt to market speed will be tantamount to managing the real-time complexities of the market pulse, customer tendencies, competitive pressures and brand position.

  • The Rise of the Millennials gives credence to a generation who has, by far, experienced a mercurial existence compared to their older counterparts. With their natural affinity to tech adoption, plus their unpredictable job prospects, this future generation of leaders will influence the way corporations function, how the workplace is governed and how business practices are developed.

Tomorrow’s leaders will shake the foundation of today’s business with a zeal to drive significant revision in response to the expectation of continuous market disorder. The complacency, which is common among many of today’s leaders, will cease to exist.

  • Data will be more pervasive than ever and artificial intelligence and machine learning science will be interwoven into all areas of the organization to capture meaningful insights that will improve decision-making capabilities.

Leadership will be challenged when they are confronted with the opportunity to share their datasets with partners, vendors and even competitors to create an open source environment that will yield an improved contextual understanding of markets and customers, but will also allow for a much different market dynamic.

  • The Gig Economy will become more pronounced as companies begin to flatten their structures to make way for increased efficiency across the organization. And while many of these processes will be automated, the demand for acute skills across many verticals will create a more defined need for specific outputs on a task basis or as Google terms, “work-for-hire as the new normal”.

For leaders, they will be tasked with creating a black book of contingency or flexible workers but will be challenged to retain top talent under these conditions.

  • Growing Economic Uncertainty will also expose a workforce population caught in the grips of technological change, and are left unprepared to evolve with the demands of the time. The groundswell towards Universal Basic Income will make it necessary to give a boost to an economy in uncertain times. On the other end of the spectrum, the impetus of technology which gives strength to efficiencies, will make many things more affordable, which should help keep the economic wheel turning.

This is, by far, a significant hurdle that will consume business as they battle the elements that will attempt to hinder performance.

I have hesitated to mention Climate Change, This, in itself, will have its catastrophic impacts in the next 30 years. Government, research and corporate investments will prioritize spending to mitigate its effects but as we’ve seen thus far, unless various governments are willing to recognize its eventual impacts, let alone its existence, the efforts of the changing business landscape becomes a moot point.  

Leadership in the coming decade will be unlike what we’ve witnessed in the last 30 years. The simultaneous shifts in economy, technology, consumption, employment, environment and politics necessitate a mindset that not only seeks to sustain organizations, but also push for a fervent, more social-conscious mentality.


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