Prediction is difficult, especially if it's about the future. But then human beings love to try and peek into the future through a crystal ball, planetary positions, lines of the palm, researching mega-trends and projecting the current available knowledge about things for a future possibility.
What are some of the trends shaping our future, and what kind of leadership behaviour will help us navigate through our future? What leadership competencies will help us manage the trends that we see today?
New form of Globalisation: East moving towards the West
The London Cab is as much an icon of the British capital as the Big Ben or the Tower of London. Chinese car manufacturer Zhejiang Geely bought black cab maker Manganese Bronze. Geely also bought Volvo in 2010 and couple of years ago Tata bought Jaguar and Land Rover, two of the proudest names in the car industry.
Indians are now leading massive global organisations, and the likes of Satya Nadella, Indra Nooyi, Shantanu Narayen, Rakesh Kapoor, Ajit Jain, Anshu Jain, and Ajay Banga will increase in the coming years. In the academic world, Prof. Rakesh Khurana, Sanjeev Kulkarny, Deepak Jain and Nitin Nohria along with many others are heading prestigious universities worldwide.
The new globalisation is east moving towards the west, while professionals from the west continue landing in their homeland in the east to do meaningful work. So the world is shrinking and the saying "such a small world" is literally true. This means that Indian leaders need to be global leaders in 2020.
Can we turn the clock back? Environmental challenges
Two months ago Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, said in a shareholder meeting that Apple's environmental efforts also made economic sense, but when challenged by a conservative shareholder activist group that Apple wouldn't do anything related to the environment that didn't follow a clear profit motive, Cook firmly replied with anger in his voice that "we do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive," and recommended that anyone who had a problem with that "should get out of the stock."
"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind," he said, "I don't consider the bloody ROI [return on investment]." The need for 'system' thinking rather than just 'cause and effect' thinking and 'long-term vision' yet focus on 'short-term sustainability' is what will help the future leader address the environmental and resource challenges. We need leaders who will be socially responsible and focus on a triple bottom line: Profits, People and the Planet.
The Return of Ayn Rand
"But you see," said Roark quietly, "I have, let's say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I'm only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards-and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one."
? Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead.
The new generation is not just bothered about where the next meal will come from but they are also bothered about belonging, autonomy, self-realisation, meaning and purpose. The good news is that the younger generation understands the need for personal meaning and values, and embrace Victor E. Frankl as much as they do Ayn Rand. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way," Frankl wrote in his book, Man's search for meaning. Employees need work that suits their personal values and adds meaning to their lives. Customers want products that are customised for individual tastes and thus the time of Individualism and personal meaning is here! This means that the 2020 leader needs to clearly articulate a meaning, a purpose and manage organisations where individuals can have their freedom, flexibility and still manage to work in a way that is meaningful to their core values.
Keeping these trends in mind, I asked a number of senior leaders what would be the competencies for a 2020 leader. Prof Robert Kegan, Harvard University; Deepak Chopra; Dr. Santrupt Misra, CEO, Carbon Black Business and Director, Group Human Resources of the Aditya Birla Group; Prof Vidyanand Jha, Behavioural Sciences, IIM Calcutta; Prof Rishikesha Krishnan, Director-IIM Indore; Rohit Thakur, HR Head Microsoft India; S. Varadarajan, Chief Human Resource Officer, Tata SIA Airlines; Ranjan Bandyopadhyay, Global HR Head for Strategic Initiatives and BPO, TCS; Makarand Khatavkar, Managing Director and Head-Human Resources, Deutsche Bank AG; Prithvi Shergill, Chief Human Resource Officer, HCL; Piyush Mehta, Senior VP, HR at Genpact; Sandeep Gandhi, CHRO Aircel - Maxis Group; and Krish Shankar, Head of HR for the Indian subcontinent at Philips, shared their views on the 2020 competencies of a leader.
What they have said and what it means to lead in 2020 is in the next column, so stay tuned!
Santhosh Babu, a celebrity coach and speaker on leadership, facilitates organisational transformations. Buddha in the Boardroom is his weekly online column for Business Today. Bookmark businesstoday.in/buddhaintheboardroom and follow @BT_India and @hypnobaba to be alerted of Babu's columns.