What skills do new leaders need to have to be successful, and how can they learn them?
The world changes quickly, and as we’ve seen countless times, any company unable (or unwilling) to go with the flow, can often end up left behind. This is why new leaders are poised to take on the waves of technology, and to do so successfully requires specific skills that need cultivation. Skills that, in the past, may have been considered “nice-to-have,” but are now regarded as crucial. So what are these new emerging trends for leadership in this modern age?
Heide Abelli is a Senior Vice President at Skillsoft, where she leads the development of leadership training. She’s been put in charge of reinventing not just the curriculum, but how it’s delivered. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Boston College Carroll School of Management.
I recently interviewed Heide for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where she shared the latest trends in e-learning, the top skills leaders need to stay competitive, and how Skillsoft is staying on the cutting edge.
I began by asking Abelli about the emerging trends she’s seeing in the leadership development industry, and how it’s affected the approach to new leadership. “I think there is a change in the kinds of skills and competencies we need to have now,” she began, “There’s also a change in the way in which leaders want to consume leadership and development content.” She emphasized that digital life has completely transformed the kinds of competencies we now expect leaders to have in the workplace. Because of its breakneck pace, technology has forced leadership to become much more adaptable to change and adjustment.
“The ability to lead change, to help a team be resilient through change, is a really critical capability that leaders need to have today,” she continued, “But I think any organization that doesn’t assume the change cycles that are going to be occurring in the organization from here on out, given how rapidly technology is evolving, is underestimating the requirement here.”
Abelli is quick to mention the impact this has also had on organizational structure, namely that the ability to collaborate has now superseded the more traditional department-based workflow. “Organizations are developing so we don’t have these siloed functional organizational structures that were so prevalent in the past. A lot of the work now is getting done through mission-based teams, and these teams are cross-functional, and collaboration within and across these teams is critical.” Collaboration and agility, she says, have now become the greatest assets new leadership can have. So what does being agile and collaborative in a complicated techno-focused world mean for a leader’s vision?
“You have to be comfortable with ambiguity, and that is not something that every person is good at,” she warns, “Increasingly leaders are going to have to be comfortable with an ambiguous landscape, and leading through that.” Although the dangers of remaining stoic through change are clearly outlined (namely, being left in the dust), Abelli is also quick to remind us of the many advantages technology and data can offer leadership. After all, with new technology comes new information, which can give leaders even greater power through data-driven choices.