business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe 

Here's a passage worthy of attention:

"At least 50% of the skills leaders need today are skills they don’t yet have.

"And the other 50% are skills that were always needed, but are now required at much higher levels."

The context:

Fast Company has a fascinating piece that starts this way:

"Look into 2024, and you see a swathe of uncertainty ahead. Strong emotions on all sides about a federal election. Troubles in the Middle East hitting home in ways not seen before. Pushback against DEI initiatives. All of this occurs against a backdrop of tension between employer and employee about where and how to work, and some of the lowest employee engagement numbers ever … We’ve been polling hundreds of talent executives, and there’s wide agreement that at least 50% of the skills leaders need today are skills they don’t yet have.

"And the other 50% are skills that were always needed, but are now required at much higher levels. We need new models for leadership that take into account these dynamics.

"It feels like leaders today require a whole new set of superpowers. For one, they must find the sweet spot between showing people they care and managing for accountability. Many people erroneously think of psychological safety and accountability as two sides of a pendulum that swings back and forth.

"During the pandemic, the pendulum swung all the way to psychological safety, and now leaders are feeling the need to swing it back. But successful organizations need both, and making people feel safe to speak up while empowering them to meet or exceed expectations are not mutually exclusive."

Fast Company goes on:

"With such a high demand everywhere for better leaders, we need a breakthrough in how to develop them. Current models for leadership development are massively inefficient. On the one hand, there are intensive, multiday, offsite events that don’t scale beyond the few top leaders who attend. On the other extreme are libraries of content that anyone can use. Yet this approach rarely achieves real behavior change except in those who tend to already be great leaders.

"We think 2024 will see the rise of new approaches to developing leaders using a variety of technologies. The key is to leverage the best digital tools while maintaining the active ingredient in behavior change: embedding new habits.

"Making a new skill habitual requires sustained attention, strong insights, and committed action, all of which are propelled by social interactions. Look for new ways of social learning—it’s not just about physically being in a room with other people. Today’s social learning can happen anywhere and everywhere through virtual platforms and interactive technology, uniting people across the globe."

You can read the entire Eye-Opening piece here.

As I think back over my career, I realize that virtually nobody I ever worked for probably had any sort of leadership training.  They'd been promoted to bigger management roles in their careers, and sometimes actually were well-meaning.  But they didn't really know anything about how to lead.  Or manage.

Granted, this is a long time ago.  I haven't been anyone's employee for a long, long time.  (Mrs. Content Guy, always the elementary school teacher, says this is a good thing since I "don't play well with others.")  We know a lot more about leadership principles today than we did decades ago, and there's really no excuse for a company to have leadership that isn't continually, persistently trained and illuminated about how to lead people in a changing world.

And I'd make this argument:  If you are a business leader at any level - whether a CEO or a store manager or even a department manager - and you think you have all the skills you need to lead, you're kidding yourself.  In fact, if you think you even know what all the skills are you need to lead, you're kidding yourself.

Bottom line:  Don't kid yourself.