Published February 9, 2020

In what ways will leadership change over the next ten years? What will be required of managers and leaders? What factors will determine whether you are a successful manager or not over the next few years?

Just as we enter a new decade, we at The New Leadership are also celebrating our ten-year anniversary. During this past decade, we have had the opportunity to work with thousands of managers and key people in hundreds of different companies and organisations. This means that our leadership consultants have acquired extensive knowledge about how managers and leaders, in both large and small corporations, view the future. Their hopes and potential worries, what motivates them to carry on and what makes them hesitate, what challenges they predict and how to conquer these.

In a world where the technology development takes place at the speed of light, conditions are constantly changing: Automation and Artificial Intelligence lead to many jobs drastically changing shape, some will disappear and new ones will emerge. Globalisation provides new markets and opportunities, but also leads to increased competition. Digitalisation has already changed how we work and will continue to do so even more in the future.

In addition, climate change and people’s increased desire to both work and live sustainably will affect our working life to a larger extent. Add to this that we tend to live far longer than we used to (Sweden will for example have an additional quarter of a million people who are 80+ years old within the next ten years), which means that more people both can and want to work into their old age.

In short, working life will become more and more complex. Many find this exciting and that it offers possibilities for growth and development, as new technical solutions equal new opportunities. Others view it as more uncertain or even frightening, as we will depend more on factors beyond our control.

Everyone will be affected – even you!

We can at least be certain of one thing: We will all be affected and have to learn how to adapt to these changes. This is indeed true of managers and leaders. When a company’s values become as important to attract customers as the products or services themselves, then the demands to “practise as you preach” will increase for all members of staff as well as managers. Personal leadership will play a more prominent role. Corporate values and whether a company can live up to these will determine people’s choices.

This is why we are now launching a series of articles where we will try to peer into the decade ahead, both when it comes to working life in general, but also the manager’s role in particular.

In what ways will the leadership role change? How will for example AI affect the ways in which managers work? What leadership skills will determine whether a company flourishes or not and how the people who work there can grow and enjoy working there? What do managers need to do to ensure the competence is top notch in a time where knowledge is changing and evolving so fast?

Today, we will kick off by looking at some of the practical and, quite frankly, unavoidable consequences of technology development and some of the changes our working life will be exposed to over the next decade.

Work wherever you want. Digitalisation has made working outside of the office possible and this is a trend on the increase. Only ten years ago, working from home for someone in full time employment was seen as something a little odd, or perhaps extravagant, but in ten years from now, this will not only be accepted, but in fact more of the norm. More and more work will therefore be conducted away from the “work place”.

Work whenever you want. More and more people will be working as freelance consultants. Focus will no longer be on the number of hours you work, but instead delivering the right results at the right time. Also among those who are still employed, the attitude to working hours will change. There are already companies today operating under the principle of “work as much or as little as you want, as long as you deliver what is expected of you”.

Work with whomever you want. Even if the number of people working freelance or are self-employed is expected to increase, the same need for colleagues and context will remain. This means that the co-working trend will become even stronger, i e offices where freelance consultants can rent a desk or a room on a short-term contract, meet other freelancers to collaborate or just bounce ideas with, before they perhaps move on to a temporary project.

New professions being born – how about climate accountant?

Employees will become increasingly unfaithful. Full-time employment will no longer be what people desire. Instead, you are expected to move from job to job more rapidly. A successful career will not mean moving up the ladder in the same company, but instead be about working with what you find interesting and meaningful, regardless of employer.

Further training and development will become even more important. Knowledge will age much more quickly and to keep up, you will not only need to do further training; for many it will also mean being willing to learn completely new things and work in new professions. Multi-competency will be key and if you want to keep up, you will need to be curious, flexible and adaptable.

New professions are emerging. Have you heard of jobs like cloud guard, DNA coach and climate accountant? If not, you might want to start learning… The ongoing technology development will give birth to new types of jobs. Training to become for example a climate accountant might not be such a bad idea – you would be keeping an eye on the company’s sustainability efforts and work towards improvements for the future.

The manager’s power is reduced – in one way. Traditional management will undergo change. The introduction of AI, Artificial Intelligence, will create more employees with expert knowledge that the manager will not have. Employees will have increased mandate to make their own decisions because of their unique knowledge and skills. However, this will mean that there will be an increased focus on the personal leadership of all employees, as in many aspects of their work, they will be managing themselves.

The manager’s power increases – in another way. Due to the technology development, the role of the manager will instead be to provide and build networks, convey values and vision, as well as building a sustainable corporate culture. As values and sustainability are issues that will increasingly be in demand by customers, the manager will play a very important role in how the company is perceived externally.

Meaningful jobs and sustainability will be important

Purpose becomes increasingly more important. There was a time when a good salary and career opportunities were enough to attract young new staff. Not anymore. Today you have to offer interesting, and most importantly, meaningful work tasks. The new generation are attracted by the possibility of contributing to a better world and in order to defend their existence and attract new employees and key people, companies therefore need to be able to show that they are working to take our society in a positive direction. Values and vision become important when we choose our employers.

Sustainability becomes key. That sustainability has reached a more elevated status and become one of the most important issues is obvious and can for example be seen in the fact that for the past few years, large Swedish businesses have had to produce a sustainability report, similar to the annual report. To just reduce the negative climate impact will no longer suffice. Recycling products will replace using new raw materials. You will now also need to commit to climate compensation. As consumers start demanding sustainable production processes, companies will realise that it is strategically important and, in fact, even a matter of survival.

These are just a few of the practical changes we are seeing already now and which will affect our working life. The pace of change will most likely increase even more, as new technology and solutions emerge. We are for example only beginning to see the potential consequences of Artificial Intelligence.

In the midst of all this change and uncertainty, you – as managers and a leaders – are still faced with your responsibility to deliver results, bring your team together so that it works and grows, make your clients happy, ensure you have skilled staff, make sure the work environment is good, be creative, be available, listen, make decisions, delegate, motivate… All this and more is already on your plate today. But how often do you stop to think about what your role will look like in a few years’ time?

What skills will be crucial?

No one can with any certainty predict what will happen in the future. The only thing we know for sure is that it will arrive and that we have to keep learning new things in order to understand our future and keep up with it. Perhaps even more so if you are in a leadership position.

This is why we are going to devote several articles to trying to answer some interesting questions about the manager’s role over the next ten years. What leadership qualities will be crucial? In what ways will the manager’s work change? What characterises a good manager?

In a couple of weeks, we will be back with our thoughts on this. In the meantime, you are very welcome to offer your own thoughts on this topic. What do you think? Comments are welcome!

Ps. Remember – there are no right answers. So far…