Three Steps to Develop Future-proof Leaders

Dr Hari Mann, Professor of Practice and Associate Professor of Strategy and Innovation

The 4th industrial revolution is upon on us, business leaders and organisations are living through the changes driven by unprecedented rates of progress in technology.

This revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical and digital world. The breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

Whilst we can’t predict the future, we can predict with certainty that the technologies driving change will fundamentally shift the challenges and opportunities facing business in the future. So how can we better equip leaders to not only deal with the future trends that they will face but to have a role in shaping them.

Strategy, Mindset and Culture are the three areas that leaders will need to focus their attention on to ensure that their organisations are prepared to take on the changes around them, but more importantly that their businesses models and the products and services that they deliver are competitive in the consumer landscape.

Step 1

Leaders will need to be equipped with the strategic skills to able to define new digital products, services or experiences that will shape their future industry. To do this, they’ll need the tools, techniques and tactics that digitally forward organizations use to understand the fundamental question that business need to ask, the question of “Where to play?” Key to answering this question will be an understanding of how to understand customer trends and the direction and needs of customers. How can companies align the thinking of their customers to that of their business models and products and create products and services to meet these demands?

Step 2

Secondly, the importance and ubiquity of platforms in today's and the future digital economy mean that business will need to understand not only how to create partnerships with others, but how they create the platforms to drive their own product growth. They’ll need to understand how platforms use co-opetition, intermediation and disintermediation, asymmetrical competition and substitution in order to succeed. Those firms able to leverage platforms will be able to go to market faster and quicker with their products.

Step 3

Thirdly, the strategy focus will need to understand how organizations find and create new value propositions to deliver new types of business models. Equally important will be the ability to constantly look for new opportunities for value creation from new and existing customers, products and services. In the past value propositions were developed as a foundation for competitive advantage and differentiation. We no longer have value propositions that remain static and differentiation that remains simple. This requires a constant re-evaluation of a company’s strategic focus and the constant creation of emergent strategies to deal with these changes.

With the right strategic focus leaders will also need to continue their development on how they see and view the world, mindset will matter more than ever before. Leaders will need to have a mindset that harnesses the growth mindset, constantly seeking opportunities, challenging the existing status quo and knowing that going out of your comfort zone is where the greatest opportunities lie. Alongside this, leaders will need to think about the culture they are creating in their organizations. Organizations which can handle the disruptive forces of business, feeling comfortable that as a culture, things are in constant change of flux will be the ones to succeed going forward.

In future proofing leaders, an appreciation of how to create the opportunities at work to not only explore but constantly learn how to deal with the challenges we have discussed will be the ones who not only find the future bright, but will find it incredibly rewarding.

Hult International Business School
Hult International Business School 
Ashridge Executive Education