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The Future Of Leadership Is Evolving. Are You?

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Based on data from more than 400 CEOs, board members, employees, and predictions from GenAI, seven key attributes emerge that will be vital for the leader of the future to succeed.

As companies navigate our ever-complex, ever-emerging ecosystems, there is a growing demand for leaders to transcend conventional boundaries to deliver the best results across their businesses. Responding to the ever-evolving environment means embracing a holistic and dynamic leadership approach, one that not only fosters innovation and resilience, but also creates sustainable growth for all.

As a result, the next generation of leaders will need to possess a radically different mindset than their predecessors. This shift means that leaders will need to think beyond their core business, demonstrating a higher level of inquisitiveness and humility than ever before. For many, transcending self will be a requirement to serve and thrive.

Using survey data from more than 400 Fortune 500 CEOs, board members, employees, and predictions from generative AI, organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry identified seven key attributes that will be vital for the leader of the future to succeed.

Korn Ferry’s findings show that it is no longer enough for leaders to serve as mere decision makers. Now, the duties of a leader are becoming multi-faceted, encompassing the professional and interpersonal skills required to connect the entire business while having the biggest impact on performance.

1. Power of Knowledge

Leaders will increasingly need to have an agile approach to learning as they adapt to organizational and societal needs. Future leaders must have a more open mind to big-picture thinking, not only for faster decision-making, but to also acknowledge what they don’t know to refine their approaches in pursuit of the best results. For organizations to maintain their competitive edge, the leaders of tomorrow require a strong appetite for understanding the key trends on the horizon to make timely decisions on major issues as they arise.

2. All-Encompassing Reach

The future leader will need to work hyper-collaboratively, stretching themselves to connect with all corners of their organization and beyond. This attribute is less about multitasking, which can lead to burnout, and more about the need for leaders to use their reach within the organization and beyond to help inform their decisions and meet business objectives. The future leader is a collaborative team player who knows when and how to ask for help instead of unnecessarily shouldering burdens alone. Harnessing the collective power of their workforce will require leaders to increasingly embrace a collaborative approach, uniting teams across the business to build connectivity and, in turn, unlock the full potential of their organization.

3. Heightened Empathy

Empathy will be more important than ever for future leaders, with 92% of our respondents attributing this trait to higher performing teams. The past four years have shown everyone—from employees and stakeholders to society at-large—how valuable empathetic leadership is for building a stronger organization. As listening becomes more critical, leaders who have the capacity to listen to new ideas from inside and outside their organizations are better positioned to hear diverse perspectives and apply those insights to their company strategy. While understanding different viewpoints can be uncomfortable, reflecting and acting on them is essential to becoming a future-ready leader.

4. Purpose-Driven Mindset

The value of a mission and purpose-driven leader cannot be understated as 74% of CEO respondents said these traits are essential. Given people’s desire to unite behind a collective mission, leaders should continuously find opportunities to revamp how they can better serve society to ensure that they’re leading their organizations to a more meaningful future.

5. Unwavering Adaptability

The leaders we surveyed all agreed that adaptability is imperative to effectively leading their companies. Combined with heightened foresight, empathy and learning agility, respondents said leaders with adaptive capabilities can more effectively guide their teams regardless of the environment’s volatility. Leaders’ willingness to pivot from ideas that aren’t working is the essence of this trait. In listening to different perspectives throughout the business, leaders who are open to new ways of thinking will be better equipped to innovate and adapt to seize emerging opportunities and tackle new challenges—the world will belong to the most adaptable.

6. Fearless Resilience

Korn Ferry’s findings show that the future leader needs to be willing to lean into the new and unknown by taking more calculated risks. While risks have historically been associated with failure, resilient leaders will understand that failures can be an opportunity to learn, and the lessons gleaned from them can be used to develop successful strategies to execute their organization’s long-term objectives. It is critical for leaders to relentlessly explore opportunities to make bold decisions, particularly as employees expect leadership to make difficult decisions. Even if those bold choices do not deliver the desired outcome, failure can become a valuable asset. Ultimately, it’s about how leaders can bounce back from these moments to understand how they can grow from them. Fail fast, learn faster, create the future.

7. Prescient Line of Sight

It’s not enough for leaders to focus on the present in a rapidly evolving environment. Our survey respondents said that leaders of the future will need greater foresight to understand how they can improve their strategy while ensuring that their business objectives align with the company’s direction. Be present and be prescient together.


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