The future of leadership: Robots and live

It’s no secret that the ability to spot and nurture good leadership is key to business success. But, with rapid technological developments continuing to revolutionise the way we live, work and lead, are companies properly equipped to identify what leadership looks like tomorrow?

In this article, global recruiter PageGroup and trends predictors Foresight Factory examine what leadership looks like in tomorrow’s world – assessing the impact of key technological trends on the workplace from the rise of robots to the importance of Live. 

Future-proofing your business is critical to success – in fact, the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) discovered that more than nine in ten (93 per cent) UK organisations say that a lack of leadership skills is affecting their ability to achieve their goals. 

Combined with the internal challenges, our increasingly tech-centric world brings with it a whole new set of workplace problems. Digital is no longer an emerging concept, it’s an embedded business practice requiring companies to identify leaders with the abilities to navigate in an online world – something that is far easier said than done.

Against this backdrop, we at PageGroup recently partnered with trends predictor Foresight Factory to study the key ‘Future Forces’ influencing leadership expectations, and understand how leaders will need to future-proof their skills in order to succeed in tomorrow’s technology-driven world...

Future force 1: The rise of robots

Where are we now?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – in which we find ourselves – will continue to bring change at an unprecedented speed and scale. The impact of previous waves of mass-mechanisation was more concentrated to specific industries and social groups; the level of automation facing us today promises to have a much wider impact across sectors, and both white and blue collar jobs.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond

The next decade and beyond will see robotisation reduce the number of jobs available to a human workforce. The projected pace of potential change will place pressure on the labour market to create new jobs where possible, and on society as a whole, as we adjust to new ways of working.

Employees will have to be proactive in continuously updating their skill sets to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive and volatile job market. In the future, skills will be flexibly learnt, upgraded and discarded as new skills become necessary. Flexible upskilling will become a key part of career progression.

What does this mean for future leadership?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution holds tremendous potential, but the crucial question is how can business leaders avoid widespread redundancies, low productivity and inequality? The answer is by taking incremental action to support staff in regularly updating their skill sets through continuous training opportunities, and providing flexible career options within their organisation.

A key challenge will be adapting leadership styles to successfully combine a human/robot workforce. The ideal scenario? Utilising technological innovations to increase productivity while simultaneously complementing important traits of human nature – creativity, empathy, innovation, and imagination. Leaders in the future will be expected to not only juggle, but effectively exploit, the benefits of this human/machine intelligence combination.

Future force 2: Leadership live

Where are we now?

It is increasingly expected that leaders lead within an organisation and outside of it, through the medium of their online leadership brand – collecting an engaged community of followers whom they lead but don't employ. To these people they play the role of thought leader, influencer and inspirer.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond

Social media sites have provided a leadership platform to increase visibility both inside and outside of organisations. They are already evolving to be more authentic and real-time through functionality such as Instagram Stories and Facebook Live and with immersive technologies like augmented, virtual reality developing rapidly, our demand for authentic interaction with those we admire will intensify accordingly.

In the future, we will witness these communities host smaller interest-focused groups of people within broader platforms. This will give way to a world of micro-influence, where people are able to find and follow leaders who are experts in a highly specific niche, and become a member of an often small but highly engaged group.

What does this mean for future leadership?

Leaders will have to adapt to a more authentic approach to online image management to meet follower demand. There will be growing need for a more casual style of leadership, where interactions have to be (or at least, appear) unscripted and genuine. Leadership in this context will diversify as this micro-influence grows in prominence. Leaders should isolate the highly specific niche within which they can lead, and build a community around this specific interest.

Technology defined leadership

Unprecedented technological advancements like those identified here are rapidly changing how we approach day-to-day working life, contributing to the need for a major revision of the concept of leadership. In future, leadership will be defined by the technology we use, and how well we interact with our colleagues (be them human or machine) will be the difference between a successful business and one that falls by the wayside. 

With this, the leaders of tomorrow must learn to balance numerous identities: inspirer, coordinator and champion of those who work for, and with them. So, are you and your business ready?  For a more in-depth look at these trends – alongside the other Future Forces identified in the study – read The Future of Leadership: Robots, remote working and real-time reactions report in full here

Oliver Watson, Executive Board Director, UK & North America, PageGroup
Image Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva / Shutterstock