What will leadership look like in the future?
Here's why introverts could lead you to sustainable success
2020 has been a tumultuous year. One that has reset the environment for businesses around the world. The COVID-19 Crisis has given businesses the possibility to reimagine work. We have the potential to take the next adventure, creating opportunity from crisis – a challenge that Russell Evans has called “both exciting and terrifying”.
At the forefront of this challenge will be leadership. It is already becoming clear that, as the business environment goes through a period of revolution, leaders will need to reimagine and revolutionise how they lead. The introverts in your organisation may become its strongest leaders.
How organisations are likely to evolve
According to McKinsey & Company, organisations in the post-pandemic world will develop along three dimensions:
- Who we are: the values, purpose, and culture of an organisation. It will be crucial for an organisation to maintain authenticity by ensuring that these three factors are aligned, and that leaders, managers, and employees live by them.
- How we operate: in more agile structures that embrace more remote work as an operational model, organisational hierarchies are changing rapidly. Autonomy and collaboration have become watchwords of forward-thinking organisations. This challenges the traditional models of leadership. Technology has been embedded at a pace few would have believed possible just a few short months ago, and managers have needed to adapt to communicating differently.
- How we will grow: resilience will continue to matter, but the evolution of paths of growth has been accelerated. Organisations are likely to adopt larger ecosystems, in which external partners, talent, and vendors play a bigger part. The cloud will develop as the infrastructure in which data-rich platforms exist, and this data, combined with AI and machine learning, will inform strategy. Organisations will also need to equip their employees with the skills to learn independently, using online resource to fuel their skillsets and abilities.
Has technology disrupted the business landscape forever?
Before the COVID-19 Crisis, no one could have anticipated the speed at which organisations and their employees could adapt to a remote work environment. Many people have found they prefer working from home. Many businesses have found that the productivity of their employees has increased.
An Institute of Directors’ survey suggests that 74% of UK companies plan to maintain the increases in working from home. Deloitte has recently announced that it will permanently close four UK offices in favour of remote working arrangements.
Analysis of the Global Work from Home Experience Survey concludes that between 25% and 30% of the workforce will be working from home more than one day each week by the end of 2021. That’s up from about 3.6% today.
While the rapid closure of economies forced companies to move as much of their operations to remote working as swiftly as they could, in the future it is, perhaps, the technology that has been employed that will be seen to be the biggest disruptor to the business environment.
Overnight, the need to go remote has created a sustainable infrastructure to support this new working model – and working from home has become an acceptable practice.
Traditionally, leaders have been extroverts
Though there are exceptions, the traditional leader is at ease in group situations. They are naturally extrovert, incredibly confident, and happy to make decisions for their team. Extroverts are energised by groups. They are good at engaging people in groups, developing teams that work closely together, and motivating people to work toward collective goals.
But in the new normal, will this portrait of the ideal leader need to be modified?
Introverts could be the leaders of the future
As businesses evolve into either fully remote or on-premises/remote workforce hybrids, the art of leadership will evolve. It may be that introverts become the more effective leaders, more adept at connecting one-to-one, less easily distracted, and more analytical in nature.
In their research paper titled ‘The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses’ , Grant, Gino, and Hoffman conclude that ‘in a dynamic, unpredictable environment introverts are often more effective leaders’. So, what qualities do introverts bring to the leadership paradigm?
Introverts create more meaningful one-to-one connections
They may not be the best at directing in group environments, but introverts tend to develop more meaningful relationships with individuals. This could prove decisive in teams in which members are working remotely and rarely (if ever) meet in-person.
Introverts are less ambitious (for themselves)
While it sounds counterintuitive, a less ambitious leader could be what your new operating model requires. They are driven by the development of their team and its productivity, more than the development of their own career.
This personality trait serves teams well, with the leader more able to influence performance and encourage learning and development of their people.
Introverts are more focused
Instead of being energised by external factors, introverts are more likely to get their motivation from within themselves. They suffer less from distractions, can tune out the noise surrounding them, and concentrate on improving productivity and quality of performance.
Introverts are analytical problem solvers
Introverts are less likely to make ‘gut instinct’ decisions. They are wired to analyse, question, and reflect before deciding. While speed of action is imperative in the fast-moving business environment, a hastily-made decision can implode on its owner and cause irrevocable damage.
The COVID-19 Crisis has accelerated the move toward remote working. It has embedded new technologies as standard resource in many organisations, and these are likely to consider how AI and machine learning could benefit them as businesses become more agile.
Talent acquisition is likely to be global, and leaders will need the skillsets to encourage innovation, collaboration, and agility, in a culture that gears highly toward productivity and self-development.
The leaders of tomorrow may not be found inside your organisation. As remote working allows talent acquisition from a global workforce, you may find leaders from all four corners of the globe. They will be more focused on creating and achieving team goals than personal promotion, developing close professional relationships with their people, encouraging them to learn, and thus creating more autonomous teams in which leadership qualities are demonstrated by all.
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