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Business as a force for positive change

Louise Gatenby, founder of leadership consultancy, The Good Board, discusses the global trends affecting the future of leadership and the skills the leaders of tomorrow will need to lead their organisations to sustainable business success

There’s an argument to say that every generation feels that they are living through a time of unprecedented change, however, I believe that the colliding trends that we are facing in the next five, ten, and even twenty years are going to be exceptional and we are going to see incomparable change in the way that we live, work and interact.

It is a huge opportunity for businesses to create positive change and for leaders to work towards an ethical and sustainable future.

This change is a cause and effect for many issues. Too many to discuss now, however, there are three areas I would like to highlight.

The 4th industrial revolution: Beginning in 2010, it has been described as the largest structural change of the last 250 years in its scale, scope and complexity. Leading on from the internet of things, this merging of our virtual, digital and physical selves is coinciding with other trends, the growth of virtual reality, AI, blockchain and smart automation, which are leading to exponential innovation and change.

And just as we start to get to grips with the implementation and implications of all of this, we will be addressing the next trends of cyber security, nanotechnology and bioinformatics.

This means huge change for jobs and leadership. It is estimated that by 2022 over 75 million jobs worldwide will already have been automated. In the UK that is estimated to be 33% and in the US 38%. The positive side is that it is also anticipated that it will create millions of new jobs, although they are going to be very different, and will need different skills and management outlooks from workers and leaders.

Sustainable capitalism: I am pleased to say that business as a force for positive change is now a mainstream view. When the Business Roundtable in America redefined its definition of the purpose of a corporation in August of this year, to include responsibility to consider the impact on all its stakeholders, you know change is taking hold.

There’s also been a huge global activism movement this year, from single-use plastic to fast-fashion, as well as an exponential rise of B Corporation and other ethical business models balancing purpose and profit. This, in turn, has a huge impact on organisational culture and leadership.

ersity of workers and leaders as we possibly can and that we need to create high-trust purpose-led inclusive organisations that are able to innovate and adapt quickly to the huge changes around us.

In the UK, diversity has primarily been based around gender and we are making progress however we do have a way to go if want to have genuine diversity. Also, we have only focused on one real area of diversity.

For the first time we are starting to see four generations working together in the workplace – Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials and Gen Z-ers - all with very different skills, life experience and expectations. That means we need to find new ways of engaging, meeting the needs and leading our new and diverse teams.

What does all that mean?

Organisations are going to need leaders who are agile, creative and resilient problem-solvers with high EQ and adaptable to change. Whilst the world is becoming more digital and virtual, it is the human skills that leaders need to equip themselves with emotional intelligence at the fore; the ability to understand, use and manage their own emotions in positive ways to communicate, empathise, address challenges and diffuse conflict.

Although they may be doing roles with quite different names. I see chief ethical hacker, director of storytelling and human AI ambassador making a top ten list.

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