Our Leadership Models Are Terribly Out of Date: 3 Predictions for the Future

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4 min

Written by: Tobias Günther

70% of meetings keep employees from doing productive work. Almost 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. And almost 50% of the work we do fails to advance our organizations’ strategies.

It’s painfully obvious that our current playbooks for leadership and entrepreneurship are in desperate need of an update. Our current models have stopped working — and we need to find better ones if we want to stay successful in the future.

Here are three predictions on the future of leadership and entrepreneurship.

(1) AI is changing everything. And yet, the leaders and organizations that will succeed in the future will excel at being human.

It’s undeniable that AI and automation will change many of the jobs we know today. Some of those jobs will be simplified, others enhanced, and some will be made obsolete by machines.

In the short term, we will see a couple of lucky winners who managed to understand and adopt quicker than others. But sooner rather than later, AI and automation will be standard components in many industries. This will be the new default — and then merely a commodity.

More important is that we keep in mind: not everything will be done by machines! And in the mid and long term, how companies deal with the stuff that remains will ultimately determine their success.

These tasks will rely heavily on soft skills: high-quality collaboration, communication, and continuous learning.

This has two important consequences:

  1. Organizations will compete for the very best talent, even more than they already do today. To be attractive for these people and beat their competitors, organizations must become great workplaces.
  2. Organizations will need to help both their employees and their leaders grow. Regarding their professional skills, on the one hand. But most importantly regarding their soft, human skills! If they want their teams to collaborate and communicate better, they need to help their employees develop these skills.

In short, companies need to create an environment where humans can thrive. They need to create great workplaces, with great cultures.

(2) Not every company needs to give up the office. But every company needs to understand and master the principles behind remote work to stay competitive.

Remote work offers a number of strong benefits.

  • Global talent pool: remote work allows organizations to hire from all over the world and thereby get access to a global talent pool.
  • Truly diverse teams: hiring people from different countries and cultures creates multi-faceted and truly diverse teams.
  • Flexibility and time savings: many hours of commuting time are eliminated and employees’ schedules become much for flexible.

These benefits are widely accepted — and extremely valuable. But in reality, remote work offers much more:

  • Deep work / fewer distractions: remote work has the potential to create a less distracted, more focused and productive work environment.
  • Polished processes: remote teams are forced to create well-thought-out and well-documented processes.
  • Better communication: remote teams, if they want to be successful, have to become more conscious and effective communicators.
  • More intentional culture: it might be surprising, but remote teams have the chance to build a more intentional, stronger company culture. Because for them, developing culture has to be a deliberate effort. While many co-located teams “get away” with letting things take their course, a remote team has to actively and intentionally build its own culture. So why not build a great one?

But here comes the best part: these benefits available to any organization. You don’t have to give up your office to become better communicators or develop more polished processes. But remote teams excel in these areas, simple because they have to.

To put it another way: remote work is not about “office -vs- no office”. It’s about the principles behind it. And these are valid for any organization — just as the benefits that result from following them.

(3) Productivity is crucial. But we need to evolve our understanding of “productivity” and make room for focused and meaningful work.

Emails, chats, text messages, and so many meetings… Bestselling author Cal Newport calls it the “Hyperactive Hive Mind”: our constant state of frantic busyness.

We’re permanently stressed and merely reacting to the never-ending demands that are placed on us by others (who, by the way, are just as stressed and busy as we are).

Working (and living) like this comes at a hefty price:

  • Mental health issues and other stress-related problems are at a peak in our modern societies. According to the World Health Organization, “an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US$ 1 trillion per year in lost productivity.”
  • Innovation and creativity are withering away because employees don’t have time to do meaningful work anymore. Everyone is so caught up in their various inboxes, pushing scraps of information back and forth, that there’s neither time nor energy to pursue the truly important tasks.

It’s quite possible that, 20 years from now, we will look back on the first quarter of this century and shake our heads in disbelief: How could we ever be so careless to underestimate these “new” technologies? How could we overlook that — despite all their advantages — they also come with serious downsides and dangers?

We desperately need to evolve our understanding of “productivity” — beyond our current “industrial age” model. We need a departure from our constant (and toxic) state of busyness. We need to make time for doing actual, valuable, meaningful work again.

And we need organizations and leaders to take charge: if they want their teams to win — to be both successful and healthy in the long run — they will have to protect their time and attention and help them focus on the right priorities.

The models of the past don’t work anymore. If we want to be successful in the future, we need to adopt new ones.

We’re at an interesting point in time. It’s painfully obvious that we have exhausted our current models of leadership and entrepreneurship. They’ve reached and surpassed the peak of their usefulness.

But luckily, the solutions are already on the horizon:

  • Becoming more human — maybe for the first time in history — will be the best approach from an ethical and an economical standpoint.
  • Adopting the principles behind remote work — and understanding that it’s not about “office vs. no office” — will create more efficient and more resilient organizations.
  • Developing a new understanding of productivity — a departure from our current model of constant, frantic busyness — will allow us to focus on meaningful and innovative work, once again.

The organizations that embrace and implement these solutions will be the ones that are successful in the future — and the present.

Take care,

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