The non-negotiable skills CEO's need to thrive in today's world of work

Leadership is undergoing a significant transformation, leaders are expected to be highly visible, accessible, and reflect their own values all within an environment of increasing technological advancement.

As CEO do you ever get the feeling that being a business leader just isn’t how it used to be and you’re going to need a whole new set of leader skills? Well you could well be right. 

So what does that really mean for leaders in the future? Well, it means that as CEO you will need to become a leader of leaders even though at times that might feel uncomfortable, focus on a more empathetic human approach, envision future scenarios the organisation may encounter and be able to join the dots between people and tech in a diverse environment as they change and evolve ensuring a psychologically safe environment for working where innovation can thrive. Read on and find out more…..

Becoming a leader of leaders 

Being a leader of leaders requires a highly collaborative mindset, and that means doing something that can feel uncomfortable for CEOs—letting go of your own ego.

“Truly effective collaboration is not about being the “smartest” and most experienced person in the room”, says Jo, “it’s about having the self-awareness and humility to recognise that you don’t know everything.”

No leader is the Oracle, with a crystal-clear vision of the future, but in today’s rapidly evolving work environment, being a constant, curious lifelong learner is the key to keeping pace and staying adaptable. Be willing to identify and understand the gaps in your own knowledge—even if this comes at a cost to your ego—and be prepared to delegate tasks to someone who has specialist expertise in those specific areas. At its heart, being a leader of leaders is about knowing your capabilities—and your limitations—and building a robust ecosystem of the right people and the right skills around you.  

Supercharge your self-awareness 

A vital component in your leadership toolkit is empathy. But while empathy may be an important part of personal resilience—and a vital part of being human—exercising it in a leadership capacity is an altogether tougher undertaking.  

“Developing genuine empathy with the people you lead starts with doing some serious work on your own self-awareness, and this doesn’t happen overnight”, says Jo Geraghty. “The capacity for self-reflection takes time, dedication and the willingness to sit with a degree of discomfort along the way.”  

Superior self-awareness hinges on recognising and understanding our personalities, emotions, and skills, and using these insights to identify our own strengths and weaknesses as leaders. As a result, better self-awareness can empower us to enhance interpersonal relationships with our team members, enabling them to feel safe, supported and seen in the workplace. That heightened level of self-awareness will not only enable you to adapt your interactions and communication styles to each specific situation and team member that you engage with; demonstrating your capacity for empathy and authenticity in the workplace will also give your employees the confidence to do the same. 

Self-awareness is also closely linked to humility, and its role in receiving and accepting feedback. But as humans, feedback can make us intensely uncomfortable—particularly when it is critical in nature. Heightened self-awareness can empower us to be humble enough to receive and deliver radical candour: feedback that incorporates both praise and criticism, helping spark reflection, trigger change and spur growth for the future: this applies to all levels of the organisation—and leaders are no exception. 

Join the dots 

As we continue to move away from the old top-down models of leadership, “softer skills” that enable us to engage with and understand our people will become increasingly important. CEOs must continue to ensure that their employees have a voice within the organisation that is respected and heard.

Rebecca Tyrell, Consultant at Culture Consultancy says, “leaders will need to combine the ability to manage a multi generational set of employees, but also appeal to new generations who have been brought up completely differently and lived through a pandemic, remote working, a cost of living crisis and rapid advancements in tech as children.   These will shape and define these generations as they enter the workforce.”

Emotional attributes like empathy and authenticity play a vital role in creating a culture of trust, where people have the confidence to bring their “whole selves” to work and make the maximum possible impact for the organisation as a result. But in an environment that looks set to remain marked by uncertainty, future-proof CEOS must steel themselves to lead through ambiguity. This means building on these softer skills by pulling together ideas from all parts of the organisation and adding rock-solid critical thinking, sound judgement and the ability to visualise the bigger picture.  

One of the tough challenges facing CEOs is  sweeping digitalisation and emerging technologies—particularly in the AI space—and the pace of change on this front looks unlikely to slacken any time soon. New technologies hold the power to revolutionise the way we work, but they present both opportunities and challenges for organisations and their employees. And while technologies like AI cannot yet fully replace human judgement and expertise, the fierce pace of development leaves the intersection between human and technological capabilities looking increasingly unclear. CEOs must be adaptable enough to navigate these grey areas and strive to anticipate the potential evolution of technologies as we move forward. They must work to understand both the possibilities and the limitations presented by burgeoning technology, and to manage the risks that it could pose to their organisation. 

 Anticipate change and stay adaptable 

Just five years ago, the world was a very different place—and the way that CEOs led was very different too. But with economic turbulence set to dominate the agenda for some time and societal and technological change continuing to unfold at a blistering pace, leaders need to up their game to the next level. The future is—by its very nature—uncertain, and leaders do not have a crystal ball. But Jo Geraghty sounds a note of caution:

“When it comes to the leaders of the future, the words of Marshall Goldsmith sum it up perfectly: what got you here won’t get you there. Change is now happening at such a dramatic pace that keeping up is no longer the end game: now the focus for CEOs is on getting ahead of the next big change to come down the track. In this rapidly evolving landscape, those CEOs that succeed in creating a future-proof CEOs leadership model will prove the best positioned to help their organisations—and their employees—to adapt and thrive.” 

For CEOs today it is a difficult balancing act between managing business as usual, while also taking a far longer-term perspective. This means actively looking out for threats and opportunities on the horizon to anticipate change that is coming down the track. 

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