top of page
  • Writer's pictureDr. Ja-Nae Duane

Pioneering the Future of Leadership in the Face of Rapid Change

future business leader looking out on a futuristic cityscape
Image generated by Revolution Factory using MidJourney

Senior corporate executives must lead decisively, now more than ever in this current era of unprecedented global-economic disruption that brings a host of future leadership challenges. The Federal Reserve is confident it can contain inflation by maintaining a moderate interest rate, but is standing by for increased intervention if that doesn’t work. Escalating conflicts in the Middle East are threatening to unleash full chaos on the globalized economy. Consumers continue their pandemic-driven increased reliance on ecommerce and have begun embracing the Metaverse.

I’ve worked with executives who are struggling with alignment on digital transformation initiatives or struggling to build camaraderie amongst geographically-distributed teams. This has been especially acute since the pandemic drove millions to buy remotely and work remotely. Many leaders are struggling with ways to build digital value for their customers while in the dark about how to leverage data. And most of all, leaders struggle because neither their systems or their employees are ready for another black swan event.

The struggles are real, but fortunately, so are the ways to overcome them. Leaders just need to be disciplined, look beyond the “hot take” future leadership trends, and embrace an organizational structure built on new thinking and approaches on mindset, people, and systems dynamics.

The Shortcomings of "Hot-Take" Future Leadership Trends

The conventional approaches to future leadership tend to be superficial. You’ve no doubt come across these talking points: You need to collaborate while you innovate! You need to infuse your creativity with empathy! You’ve got to be networking when you’re not working, pivoting while you’re scaling, and sustaining while you’re surmounting!

These platitudes might trend. They might get the likes. But when you’re in a position of responsibility, you need to look beyond the hot takes and immerse yourself in an empirically-driven strategic approach.

The Importance of New Perspectives on the Future of Leadership

What you need are fresh perspectives on the future of leadership that go beyond the trends. But before you can generate those perspectives, you need to cultivate an adaptive, future-forward mindset, people, and system dynamics within your organization.

When it comes to mindset, it’s easy to get stuck in the one that brought you success. To fall into the trap of satisfaction with the status quo. When that happens, things become viewed as “good enough” that aren’t. Imitation gets passed off as innovation. We lose touch with our transcendent purpose and simply drift into change instead of walking boldly and intentionally into it.

Your corporation is built by and with people. Once you’ve got your intentional growth mindset locked down, you need to focus on recruiting and training the best and the brightest people. You need employees who can execute the plan but can also adapt and get stronger when a plan fails. You need employees who effectively buy into what you’re doing (so you’d better know what that is). And you need employees who are motivated to take initiative and be proactive within your system.

You know your organization is not just a bunch of people in a building. It’s a network of relationships. You might have hired and trained the best people, but you also need to establish strong connections and collaboration with those people. People with different personalities and different responsibilities can easily end up working at cross purposes (and even sabotaging each other) if your system dynamics are not understood in detail and implemented with care and consistency.

Embracing Innovative Approaches to the Future of Leadership

An overall theme of future leadership hot takes is that you need to find ways to ballast your organization against uncertainty and change. While this is true, it’s barely scratching the surface. It is a strategic error that ignores the importance of developing antifragility, which is inherently more fluid and adaptive than just being prepared for the future. You cannot brace for change and hope for the best. You must anticipate it, lean into it, embrace it, and become stronger from it.

Develop a Future-Ready Mindset

People are counting on you to set the tone, drive culture in a positive direction, and deploy strategies that create meaningful growth. And that means you need to develop a mindset that makes it second nature for you to proactively navigate the complexities of the future of leadership.

You need to be proactively thinking about and testing new ways of leading your organization into the future with confidence. Many leaders I work with are initially hung up on business models of the past. While it makes sense to value historical success, you also have to stay alert to when a model stops working. One thing we’ve learned from studying varying levels of centralization (the dominant organizational model of the past 200 years) is that established models work until they don’t. As chess grandmaster Emanuel Lasker famously said, “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

I guide leaders and their teams through immersive training. They put their decision-making skills to the test in simulated disruptions. Then, we review their actions, focusing on mindset and the heuristics they used. Together, we identify any weaknesses and determine the best strategies to overcome them. Not only is it a powerful way to learn without risking time and money, it’s a lot of fun.

Empower People to Embrace Rapid Change

Leaders typically don’t relish change. And their employees really don’t like it. I work to help organizations empower their employees to thrive on change. Defense against the inevitable will only take you so far before it paralyzes you. When your people learn to expect and capitalize on change ( especially the rapid kind that disruption entails), they become more engaged, more productive, and more inspired to come to work.

At the cultural level, this entails moving from resilience to readiness. The companies that seize the future take the time to develop a culture of antifragility. You still need to be resilient, but you also need to get stronger when you encounter shocks. And you need to cultivate employees who harness shock into business advantages.

Adapt Systems Dynamics

System Dynamics is paramount to establishing successful systems within your organization. Modeling complex systems allows us to improve decision-making, prepare for worst-case scenarios, and solve real-world problems. Agility and adaptability aren’t just buzzwords. They are strengths that you must cultivate. System dynamics will help you both develop and hone them.

Effective leadership is only possible when the incentive structures of your business and industry are deeply understood and you take the initiative to rethink and reshape them to your advantage. This often involves the identification and implementation of existing or new technology to onboard future systems.

And employees only buy in when they are allowed to train with new systems and contribute to their effectiveness in real time. I work with business leaders to create training scenarios that empower their employees. Together, we develop a cross-functional workforce in which employees are ready to shift jobs, roles, and strategies in the face of chaos. This ensures teams can innovate and bring the required products to the market to support consumers in an era of rapid change.

Leading the Way Into the Future

The data is in. The future-ready leader will be the model leader of the future. This isn’t about personal style. This is existential for the future of business and the impact technology and continued disruption it will have on all of us.

Don’t let the hot takes fool you. There is no quick fix. But there is a path forward. If you put in the work, take stock of your strengths and weaknesses, resist complacency, and train your employees to be prepared for anything, then you will be ready for whatever the future throws at you.

If you want to move beyond hot takes and explore real, effective strategies that can make your business more competitive in the face of rapid change, contact me and my team today.

bottom of page