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Cultivating complex leaders paramount for organisational success

26 February 2018

± minute read

    Cultivating complex leaders paramount for organisational success
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Author: Dr Renate Scherrer‚ MD of JvR Consulting Psychologists

There is a consensus that ‘a day in the life of’ tomorrow’s leaders will be significantly different from today. The broad future trends such as globalisation, virtualisation, digitisation and automation of organisations are literally transforming the nature of jobs. At the same time a progressively diverse workforce is also adding challenges, as well as benefits, to the leadership task of effectively integrating and spearheading teams that are multi-generational, increasingly educated up to tertiary level, and likely working off-site.

Out with the old

The impact of these future requirements will be acutely experienced at the individual and organisational levels. Organisations will have to rethink, redesign and reposition anything from organisational structure, to work processes, to talent strategies. Traditional selection or succession processes will no longer be effective when only yielding a list of potential candidates to be placed into specific well-defined roles. Future leaders will have to tick a few essential boxes that will enable a good measure of success across a variety of roles in the ever-changing and shifting organisational landscape. This is where the complex leader steps up to the challenge of being adaptable and resilient, ready to face the challenges ahead and doing so whilst empowering their people and doing the right thing. Complex leadership can be unpacked as being COMPETENT, INNOVATIVE; MATURE; EMPATHETIC; ETHICAL; CONNECTED and FLEXIBLE. The complex leader will have to help organisations answer volatility with vision; uncertainty with understanding; complexity with clarity; and ambiguity with agility (VUCA).

How to find and cultivate complex leaders

Proper selection and development is paramount. However, more than ever before, these procedures need to be holistic and technologically enabled, as well as informed by science and predictive analytics to assist in making effective real-time decisions with a future-focused perspective. The good news is that there are numerous excellent and scientifically sound psychometric assessments available, as well as a growing body of knowledge on transformed leader development strategies that will cater to the requirements of discerning future leaders. Organisations will benefit from implementing an end-to-end process that includes the following core and recurring steps:

Map: understand the context and future requirements of their leaders

Measure: assess leaders against those future requirements and determine the skills gap

Mobilise: create and provide ongoing value through effective and appropriate gap-closing development initiatives

What should aspiring leaders do?

The demand for leadership development is no longer a ‘nice to have’. In the next decade, aspiring millennials will increasingly take on the daunting task of becoming inspiring leaders. With more than a third of South Africa’s citizens being millennials, the upcoming leadership generation will need to cope with the complexity of leading boldly into the future without the benefit of years of experience and exposure in preparation. They will need to have or grow ‘bigger’ hearts and minds on the go as part of a lifelong learning experience. They will have to future-proof themselves through being open to continuous learning, to question and explore, to experience and innovate. True complex leaders are by no means perfect and without fault. Somewhat like the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with powdered gold lacquer – Kintsugi – complex leaders embrace their fault lines and continuously work at repairing it. Because the leader’s unique history and flaws are not hidden and disguised, followers are also authorised to find new meaning in who they truly are and, in the process, become more resilient. John Maxwell said:

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Against the future backdrop, it seems that the successful leader of tomorrow will be the one who, even though they do not know the way, are willing to make the way and guide others to find and achieve their purpose, embrace their vulnerabilities and celebrate who they truly are.

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