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9 Trends In Leadership For 2013

Written By Macala Wright for PSFK.com, this version features additional contributions from John Caswell

Senior leadership has a problem. And that problem is – by design – that we’re out of touch with the way the world (that business lives within) actually operates.

We’ve designed the business in such a way that we make it almost impossible to have our hands – or heads – wrapped around the triggers/levers of change and execution. And we’re going to really need them to survive – creating that agile/adaptive context required for operating in the 21st Century.

For leadership in all areas, 2013 holds a wake up call. To survive, let alone outperform and stay ahead we’re going to have to look at the quality of our leadership and in particular what that role now means. There are nine trends that we see leadership focusing on:

1. Meaningful Collaboration – In order to create sustainable success, leaders will have to lose their silo mentality – be willing to work with other teams and outside partners that are key to our brands, products and/or services’ futures. When we do this, we’ll be able to inspire those who work under our leadership to spread our vision and accomplish the goals we’ve set forth.

2. Innovation – Much More Than A Word – Leaders will truly understand that they have to gain the creativity to transform and innovate products and services that drive consumer demand due to their usefulness and value to that individual’s life. Innovation works across the whole business and is central to how the business has to think and work. Understanding the principles of a ‘delightful out-performance’ coupled with simplicity, utility and function are key to truly innovative successes.

3. Beyond The Social Technology – A social platform has become crucial but is meaningless without the application that resonates and causes traffic and/or inquiries. Successful leaders will have to understand that becoming ‘social’ is a vital connective layer that courses through everything. It’s not its own department or experimental division – it’s how the company has to be. Leaders will be tasked with developing the skills and talent necessary to exploit mobile and social technologies now in order to maintain relevancy in the future, and to connect with customers in ways that make them want to participant in the brand and be inspired to enter into conversation with us.

4. Understanding The Power Of Systems Thinking – Leaders must develop the ability to understand and exploit the meaning of the various patterns associated with how the ‘machinery’ of the enterprise works. By gaining an appreciation of how systems work and how to analyze them better we’ll become confident in their ability to transform the business. Worth reading related ideas in Spiral Dynamics. It is but one dimension but useful nonetheless – Note – “Spiral Wizards,” a term used by Dr. Don Beck in his book, Spiral Dynamics. Spiral Wizards are “individuals with the ability to see over vast landscapes, seeing patterns and connections that others don’t notice.” The connections and patterns we see will allow us to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

5. Engagement On Purpose – Real communication within an organization comes from authentic engagement with key members in it. This ensures that meaning is transferred and that people are truly connected – owning the ideas at levels that are now valuable to them. As a result receptiveness and encouragement of ideas and thoughts will become far easier, allowing leaders to identify new opportunities to make their company better. Engagement provides fresh and revitalized opportunities for employee ownership of projects and employee passion and belief in company causes.

6. Values That Mean Something – Leaders will redefine what their principles actually are and create an authentic and thoughtful set of values that resonate with everyone. To do so means understanding what that the real qualities of great leaders are. Words are the devil but with true effort the key values of the real leader – humility, persistence, courage, tenacity, vision… – make sense and enable a courageous leader to tell or craft a story that the people will care about.

7. An Ethical Business – Currently far too much leadership is transparent tokenism. By popular debate and media buzz there is nowhere near enough integrity in many businesses. 21st Century leaders need to understand and think more deeply about this and figure out if they might possess a social and humanistic ethic. More and more companies have begun to understand their responsibilities and want to do good for the sake of good, not purely for publicity or corporate growth. Being socially conscious can become a powerful platform for a truly sustainable business.

8. An Eco-System Of Real Partners – Successful leaders will increasingly realize the need for networks of resources that can add to their capability. As costs are driven down, doing things with all shapes and sizes of partners become essential to success. Capability to bring to market new services and innovation is dramatically changing the nature of the supply chain and the types of skills required to deliver. There are fewer and fewer pure-play service providers as skills to do new things exist in a whole new array of types of business. And in addition, while big name partners and agencies may be part of their future success, they’ll also realize that smaller niche groups can play key roles in their development and success. They won’t shy away from actively seeking them and working with them.

9. Automation – Successful leaders will realize that there are limits to what should be automated. While we may be able to, and should, automate many things, we’re going to need to understand the balance. There are certain tasks nobody wants to do that can actually be improved by repeatable systems and process. But other things are better dealt with by humans – these are also the more valuable and unique parts of the business anyway and offer real opportunity for people. This can involve us in bringing back (e.g.) human editors and curators to create better consumer experiences and interface, better service and product offerings and more emotional/human connections that can’t just be delivered by machine thinking. Google has already realized this; we must also.

As a business leader, what area(s) are you aiming to develop on in order to be more effective in your role?


Photo: Flickr

Macala Wright
About The Author
I currently serve as the head of digital innovation and strategy for Group Partners, exploring societal and cultural trends that are effecting businesses in the 21st century. Widely recognized for my writing on digital futurism and technology, I've been quoted or had my work cited in The New York Times, ADWEEK, Gawker, Defamer, NRF Smart Brief, The San Francisco Chronicle, Mashable, Los Angeles Times, Direct Marketing News, The Next Web, Fox Business, The Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly. You can follow me on on twitter @Macala or read my blog.

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