Published February 23, 2020

What will the leadership of the future look like? What qualities and skills will be important for the leaders of tomorrow? These are questions that may perhaps seem impossible to answer, but we will give it a go….

There was a time when all decisions were made by the manager. He (it was most often a man) gave orders, ruled and thought he knew everything, as he considered himself to be the smartest as well as the most knowledgeable person. He was after all the boss and a boss was, by definition, right and would therefore get his way.

This type of manager is already a dying breed, and within the next ten years, it will be extinct. This is going to be the decade when managers once and for all will have to stop thinking so much about themselves and instead focus on their employees, build relationships and – equally important – learn how to really listen.

In our last blog post, we discussed how the increasingly faster technical development and changing life conditions will transform our working life. Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots and automation will mean that some professions will disappear and others will emerge, digitalisation will facilitate flexibility as regards where, and sometimes also when, we choose to work. Global warming and climate threats will force companies to increase their focus on sustainability and the environment, not least because consumers demand that they do. Just to mention a few of the changes we will soon see more of.

Today, and in the next few blog posts, we will discuss how we think this is all going to affect leadership, the role of the manager and what qualities and skills will be required for success. We will start by looking at a skill set which is already important, but which will become crucial over the next ten years:

Social skills.

There are many reasons why social skills will become increasingly important for tomorrow’s leaders:

Social skills cannot be replaced by machines, at least not for many years yet. Even if Artificial Intelligence is already much better and faster than humans to retrieve and process data, we still need a human brain to interpret and understand how this data can and, more importantly, should be used.  It will be many years before AI has learnt how to think in terms of empathy and responsibility, two important qualities for every socially competent manager.

The role of the manager will become increasingly that of a team leader: taking care of their employees and giving them the best possible conditions to do a good job. What is important here is to understand your employees and their needs, in order to motivate and inspire them, get them onboard with the goals and create consensus around the values in the company. In addition, you need to dare trust your employees, listen to them and gather advice and ideas before making decisions. The manager’s ability to communicate in a clear and trustworthy manner will be crucial, which also means that the manager must be able to show a more vulnerable side of him/herself – “ I actually do not have all the answers”.

Companies will not, as much as they do today, consist of people who have known each other for years. Instead there will be many teams and project groups with colleagues with certain specific expertise having been brought in temporarily. More and more people will therefore be self-employed or work freelance and sell their knowledge and skills to the companies that need them. This will demand more of the manager’s social skills, in order to bring the group together so that the collaboration is smooth and the job gets done.

Loyalty will be on the decline, at least in the sense of, and certainly because of, there being fewer full-time employees and more people providing their knowledge and skills for a limited period of time. Loyalty towards the company may therefore not be taken for granted. Add to this that some people may be working for several companies at the same time, which further complicates establishing loyalty and trust. The manager’s role will be to ”nurture” this type of employee in such a way that they feel included and appreciated, as well as understanding and embracing the company values.

Several studies show that younger generations, those who are new to the labour market or about to join it, value a sociable and friendly manager more than a high salary. They also have stronger demands on the work being meaningful and in line with their own values. The manager must be able to promote and show that the company are living up to their vision and proclaimed culture in order to attract the people they want.

Social skills is really an umbrella term for a lot of different qualities and skills. Socially competent managers must be able to communicate and cooperate with all sorts of different people and therefore need to be adaptable, towards employees as well as clients and collaborative partners.

Socially competent managers are empathic and understand how their decisions affect their employees and they take other people’s feelings seriously. They realise that companies are made up of people and they are therefore good at building relationships. In addition, they are good listeners and happy to take onboard the ideas and opinions of others.

Furthermore, socially skilled managers are brave and dare do what feels right, even if it is not always easy. They are open and honest and therefore dare show themselves vulnerable sometimes, which also builds trust. They feel responsible and do not criticise failures, because they know that taking risks is part of course in the business world.

Among other things…

So, no pressure then…? However, it might feel a little easier if for a moment you consider what being a leader is all about: creating the best possible conditions for your employees, in order for them to not only perform brilliantly, but also enjoy their work, be able to grow, feel good and speak well of their work place.

This is what we mean by social skills. Or perhaps even social leadership, now and for the future!

NEXT TIME: The word every leader should know. And we will tell you why!

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