Leading Future Talents

Gessila Barba, Dikshya Sharma & Anneli Matila-van Houtum

Introduction

This paper discusses the next generation organizational culture and the attributes required from the leaders of the future talents. An organization’s culture is defined, cultivated, and implemented by its leader(s) and it manifests as the way of operating all the way to the customer (Rossi 2015). Strong leadership has several dimensions and many definitions. However, the current and especially future talents require certain traits in the leader they enjoy following and working with. Positive leadership consists of soft values and a very human approach in all interactions with employees. Best leaders create a very human organizational culture, and it becomes the cornerstone of the business strategy (Rossi 2015). Visionary minds who strive for continuous learning and development, are compassionate about diverse people and make them flourish, are the ideal leaders today and in the future (Huotari 2019). The change to earlier generations’ expectations is remarkable. Our future lies in the hands of the next generations and their leaders. 

Strong leaders are visionary influencers and agile enablers

Leaders influence and guide their followers; managers take care of things. Both roles are important, but in today’s environment we are more interested in leaders as the leadership styles either make or break the organizations (Kotler 2021). We should recognize that diverse cultures, industries, and roles require different leadership styles, but in general, as the world is in continuous change, competition is fierce and skilled resources are scarce, best leaders today are seen as visionary coaches and agile enablers who make each member of the organization flourish. They comprehend that everybody’s contribution is crucial for success (Ristikangas & Ristikangas 2019). Great leaders show the way by articulating their vision and with their own behavioral example. Research also shows that such organizations are most profitable, not only because their members are motivated, thus efficacious, but also because they are sustainable and robust (Kostamo 2017). 

Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher already stated: “Change alone is unchanging and nothing endures but change.” That is truer today than ever before. The leaders and organizations who keep up with or drive the change are the winners. It is also known that transformation is achieved sustainably only through inner motivation on the individual level (Martela 2015). Outer rules, policies, and regulation will only prohibit change due to human behavioral traits (Kostamo 2017). Organizational cultures and leadership styles enabling self-management and a working environment encouraging risk-taking, yet providing clear guidance through vision and mission, are most well-being and successful both for transformation and financially (Kotter 2012).

Communication is an essential leadership skill

The way we interact and connect with each other is paramount. Today’s leaders need to be excellent communicators. Every interaction within the community either contributes to or detracts from success (Rossi 2015). In strong organizational culture and under good leadership communication is seen as an all-way everyman’s right: Personnel is heard and engaged in operations and decision making, there is a culture of active listening and psychological trust which leads into utilizing the full potential of everybody. In such organizations decision making is competence based, not hierarchical and yet, the direction is well communicated and guided by the leaders (Laloux 2014). Andreas Forsberg (2022), a leadership anthropologist, speaker and behavioral analyst, and the CEO of Leading High Performance, says that best leaders today are “Inclusive, yet decisive.” That sums it up well: Leader should engage, enable, show direction, and make the hardest decisions.

Internally motivated employees are an undisputed guarantee of success

It is common knowledge that people are the most crucial resource for any organization. The idea that it is more important to take care of the personnel than the customer is gaining a foothold (Rossi 2015). We are slowly starting to believe that pluralistic organizational culture nurtures the natural inner motivation in the employees which defines the success of the organization. Pluralism assumes that diversity is beneficial to organizations and autonomy should be enjoyed by everybody. Research shows that autonomy is the source of inner motivation and that it increases well-being and productivity (Martela 2015). Self-managed motivated employees and their continuous development are the keys to surviving in the fierce competition. It is the responsibility of the leaders to enable that for the entire personnel (Laloux 2014).

Integrity and evolutionary purpose describe strong leadership and best organizations

We need visionary leaders with high ethics and meaningful aims as the world is facing huge challenges in the form of climate change caused by pollution, loss of biodiversity, inequality, growing population, and diseases. The strong leaders are needed latest now, if not yesterday. We can all be leaders of our own lives and behaviors in the right kind of culture. Asta Rossi states in her book Kulttuuristrategia 2 (2015) that people are led more effectively by strong organizational culture than by personalized leadership, however charismatic the leader may be. According to her, strong organizational culture means above all integrity, trust, honesty, and respect. It consists of ethical like-minded people and is inspiring and involving, engaging, and empowering. She says that its members communicate predictably, regularly, and openly at all levels. Listening and sharing throughout the entire ecosystem is an important part of communication and development. Leaders of such organizational culture are compassionate servants of their team(s) and its individuals. They comprehend that self-management is the route to inner motivation as they practice it themselves and facilitate it in their team(s). Continuous development and learning by doing is one of the main values for them (Rossi 2015).

Great leaders treat their people as they would like to be treated themselves. Jim Goodnight (2015) from SAS Institute has also stated well: “Treat your employees like they make a difference, and they will”. Appreciation of everybody’s contribution, gratitude and celebration are a natural part of everyday life in a strong organizational culture. Members of the organization need to experience all the above to feel happy and well and to achieve excellent results and deliver exceptional customer service (Kostamo 2017).

New generations are worried about their future in many ways and for a good reason. Apart from the environmental problems they strive for and struggle with inequality and ethical issues. Integrity and an evolutionary purpose they can associate with drive their inner motivation and they make no compromises with ethics (Huotari 2019). Only meaningful work motivates them, and they insist on autonomy. They will not allow micromanagement. The young generation examines thoroughly their sources of motivation and fosters them. Nudging is an effective leadership tool with the new generations (Güntner 2017).

Best talents are hungry for constructive feedback

The young generations require the possibility of continuous development. Regular constructive feedback is a prerequisite for agile development. Strong leaders create an organizational culture which has psychological trust to give and receive feedback daily (Rossi 2015). Feedback is experienced as encouraging, sharing, and helping others to develop, not as criticism or use of power as it may have been seen in some cultures (Huotari 2019).

Successful leaders champion common agenda and evolutionary purpose

The priority of leaders, after all, is to achieve success and the tools have changed totally during the past decades (Kotler & co. 2021). Success can mean many things and more often it means striving for an evolutionary purpose like turning sea water into drinkable water or inventing a new generation of antibiotics saving lives. Anything that inspires and motivates the leader herself or himself and the well selected members of the organization (Rossi 2015). One of the most important tasks for a leader is to find out what genuinely creates inner motivation in her or him. Great leaders do not have their own agenda or objectives, but they strive and champion for a common agenda which will more often be for a common good (Huotari 2019).

Traits of a great leader

The personal traits of a leader are the same as they are for a good employee, and we may take them for granted. However, a leader with a clear and right-minded vision and excellent communication skills enables success for his or her team (Rossi 2015). The next generation leader does not micro-manage but promotes autonomy, freedom of choice, shows direction, coaches, and shares responsibility with his or her employees (Huotari 2019). A strong leader is a source of inspiration by example and creates accountability and trust in the team or organization (Rossi 2015). A human leader is compassionate and helps each employee to be accepted by themselves and by the team for who they are and cultivates respect for every contribution (Huotari 2019). The best leaders build trust within the entire community and delegates decision-making whenever possible leading to genuine competence-based decision making (Laloux 2014). Such leaders emphasize to applaud brilliant ideas or achievement of the goals. They communicate honestly, precisely, regularly, and predictably in an effective, inspiring, and respectful way (Rossi 2015). This kind of leadership improves the organizational culture (Rossi 2015).  A great leader is compassionate, leading and steering, motivating and inspiring, respectful, grateful, and appraising and acknowledging. Such leaders emphasize applauding brilliant ideas or achievement of the goals (Kotler 2021). They simply create an organizational culture where employees feel safe, meaningful, and well (Rossi 2015). In a humane organizational culture employees are committed, work well and show passion in day-to-day activities and encourage everybody to follow their passion and creativity (CCL 2020).

Conclusions

Leadership is one of the most demanding tasks in the fast-changing world where people are stressed and competition is fierce. It is essential that we speak about its importance and influence on people’s lives and well-being as well as the profitability of the organizations. We should pay attention on how we speak about it to bring the positive leadership into spotlight and enhance the change for the better.

We need leaders and leadership everywhere, but we should keep in mind that everyone is the leader of his or her own life. The focus in leadership should be in enabling people to find their passion and purpose by coaching and guiding (Ristikangas & Ristikangas 2019. Martela 2015). We have learned that best leaders are courageous and wise and communicate their ideas clearly and in an inspiring way. They display emotional intelligence and be reflective and considerate. Effective leaders focus on achieving common goals and objectives by following principles that inspire and motivate others. For these reasons, leaders who are critical to businesses and aid in the transformation of a depressed and dysfunctional corporate culture into one that is pleasant, rewarding, inclusive, and effective.

Leadership abilities can be developed at any age and are influenced by both innate ability and personal experiences. Schools and youth programs can aid in the development of leadership abilities among children and teenagers. Families and peers provide a social structure in which adolescents can develop leadership skills and mature into a responsible adult capable of gathering knowledge and making sound decisions. Anybody can be a good leader.

References

Printed 

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Kotter, J.P. 2012. Leading change. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.

Laloux, F. 2014. Reinventing organizations: a guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness. Brussels: Nelson Parker.

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Electronic

Center for Creative Leadership. 2020. What are the characteristics of a good leader? Accessed 29.4.2022. What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader? – CCL.

Güntner, A & Sperling, J. 2017. How to nudge your way to better performance. McKinsey & Company – Organization. Accessed 23.4.2022. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-organization-blog/how-to-nudge-your-way-to-better-performance

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Kostamo, T. 2017. Ihan intona! Miten innostusta johdetaan. Viitattu 24.4.2022.  https://www.e-julkaisu.fi/haaga-helia/ihan_intona/pdf/HH-Leading-passion.pdf

Unpublished

Forsberg, A. 2022. Leading High Performance Oy:n toimitusjohtaja ja Puhujatori-ammattipuhuja. Puhelinkeskustelu 11.4.2022.

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