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Mary Rose McLean on the skills you need to run the business of the future

How to create the business of the future

Old school corporate leaders traditionally led from the front, with a single vision dominating every decision. But times have changed, and this old fashioned leadership style is dying out. In the second decade of the 21st century, the corporate world is a constantly moveable feast, and leadership must adapt to keep up.

We are working in an age of continual flux. Products and services may disappear overnight, only to be replaced by something faster, better and more accessible. Added to this, competition is coming from more directions than ever before. Not only do businesses have to compete against their traditional competitors, they must contend with disruptive, agile start-ups. Alongside this brave new corporate world, a new leadership value system is emerging.

How to run the business of the future

The rise of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), peer-to-peer lending and cryptocurrency are transforming every sector of the business world. From Fintech to Proptech and AI customer service agents to automated systems, it’s a transformative time.

These kinds of technologically advanced tools will only increase, further boosting the newly emerging leadership value system. And that’s why there has been a shift in thinking for leading corporations. They’re no longer recruiting managers and leaders based on a list of specific skills in their work history. Instead, they’re looking for the kind of leader that can understand how to take the company through a rapidly altering business world.

Four skills you need to become a flexible, innovative leader who is one step ahead of the game:

Skill 1: Able to come up with truly new solutions

Business leaders are no longer expected to simple execute a strategy that is set in stone. In the past, their main role may have been to implement a predetermined strategy and make it more efficient. Now, one of the key attributes of a future-proof leader is the ability to create a totally innovative, new solution. This needs creativity, flexibility of thought, a willingness to learn and adapt and the guts to make decisions.

As workplaces continue to be changed by disruptive tech, the leaders that will come out on top are those that can help to shape and direct these changes. It’s not enough to react to innovation. It’s about pre-empting the changes and directing them. Leaders must be able to see opportunities before anyone else, and use them to redefine not only their role, but also their business.

Skill 2: Unfazed by chaotic changes

Leaders who work well in today’s often chaotic, unpredictable and ever-changing landscape are those that are not intimidated by the unknown. Letting go of systems and processes that no longer serve the company in the best way, despite their historical legacy, is a prerequisite for a leader to take a business through this period of change.

If you can remain calm and comfortable in the midst of seismic changes in processes, tools, workforce and innovation, then you are better prepared for the future of the corporate world.

Skill 3: Understand technology

It’s becoming a prerequisite for leaders to have a thorough, meaningful understanding of emerging technology. The capabilities and applications of the kind of innovative tech we’re seeing now will continue to push the boundaries of what we can achieve. Business leaders have to understand how it affects their own company, and the market as a whole.

All kinds of diverse industries are starting to bring tech experts into their leadership teams. There is a burgeoning recognition that technology is now a vital component in a company’s success.

Skill 4: Impressive levels of emotional intelligence

Technology is pushing businesses away from the traditional, hierarchical style of management. Leaders that demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence are the ones that will thrive in an age of increasing artificial intelligence.

As technology permeates every aspect of the business process, companies are evolving in a more organic way. Artificial intelligence can do so many things we can do, but there are traits that it can’t yet replicate. These are the traits that make a successful future leader, and include fairness, honesty, transparency and the ability to design systems for use by humans.