ITB 2024 Special Reporting
Tomorrow's leaders.
By Roger E. Herman, CSP, CMC, FIMC
Thursday, 11th October 2007
Corporate leaders in the Triad will be challenged, as we move further into the 21st century - it is safe to say that they will face one unprecedented situation after another.

Familiarity with the past will form only a basis for examination, not a pattern of solutions. The solutions of the future will be highly creative, responding to unique circumstances that leaders simply will not expect.

The Triad will continue to grow, attracting new businesses and new residents from around the country and around the globe. Technology and transportation will form the core of new development.

Workers will come to the Triad from countries that are not represented or are underrepresented in the current local population. Some will be drawn specifically by the work opportunities; others will be attracted by the prospect of gaining a high quality education congruent with their employment experience.

New visa regulations will enable citizens of other countries to pursue new combinations of work and education.

Tomorrow's leaders will engage a much more diverse workforce. Even more languages will be spoken in many companies and schools, with the cultural diversity adding an exciting and stimulating richness to the quality of life.

An increasing cosmopolitanization of the region will become a magnet for people seeking more global-sensitive communities. The shifting values will create interesting new circumstances for community leaders from all walks of life.

Velocity of Change

The speed of change will increase in all sectors. Leaders will learn new ways to work with change. Realizing that change will not be managed, savvy Triad leaders will engage change. With change as a friend, leaders will be receptive to--even eager for --new approaches, new ways to work together, and new ideas to develop. The area is rich in the resources of knowledge, experience, achievement, and resiliency.

In many environments, change will be welcomed. People will be excited about exploring new alternatives, technologies, and opportunities. Research will gain even more viability in the region.

Leaders will scramble to keep up and keep ahead. To take advantage of the unique qualities of the region, leaders of all sorts of organizations must intensify their communication and collaboration.

Some leaders will have considerable difficulty coping with the rapid change. Top leaders will find ways to reach out to help them, or risk losing valuable leadership talent. Leaders will need mentors, counselors, and coaches. The Center for Creative Leadership is a great asset, but only one among many that must be tapped.

Corporation of the Future

The structure of corporations, including those in the Triad, will evolve to something much different, during the first and second decades of the 21st century. Insular hierarchical designs, and their supportive cultures, will shift to more open frameworks.

Companies will become more flexible, nimble, and responsive to needs from customers, suppliers, investors, and employees. Enlightened leaders of this metamorphosis will concentrate on helping their people and their systems to be highly adaptable.

As employers focus even more on their core business, they will seek opportunities to outsource and insource as many tasks as possible. Leadership will be expected to build core competency strength and leave all non-core activities to other organizations.

As more firms are formed to serve these needs, new leaders will emerge. Some of them will be quite aggressive--not just participating in the new relationships, but driving them.

Strategic alliances and partnerships will form, creating even more opportunities for leaders to create innovative ways for their organizations to relate to each other. There is a potential for ground-breaking, creative approaches to be developed in the Triad, an area already recognized and respected for its progressive thinking. As they open their minds to new possibilities, Triad leaders may set the pace for the rest of the country.

Tomorrow's leaders will exhibit a pioneering spirit in their companies, educational institutions, governments, and not-for-profit organizations. The foundation is already in place, but will be expanded as today's leaders realize the critical importance of identifying potential leadership talent and preparing those people for exciting roles in the relatively short-term future.

Collaborative and Coordinative Skills

New skills will be needed by tomorrow's leaders. The skills of building more collaborative communities will be in high demand, and will be taught aggressively to young leaders by mentors, coaches, and university professors. Graduates of liberal arts colleges will become even more attractive to employers because of their ability to engage in multi-functional thinking, discussion, and problem-solving.

Negotiation and persuasion skills will be valuable, as will abilities to coordinate, network, and connect. Most managers do not have these skills yet. Savvy leaders will acquire these competencies and learn to apply them inside and outside their organizations.

These skills will be critical in managing relationships with leaders of outsourcing firms, alliance representatives, and contingent workers and their representatives. Some managers will actually resist learning and using such skills, preferring to adhere to the more traditional directive model. These managers will become relics of a bygone age as the years pass.

Customer-Driven Leadership

Tomorrow's leaders will be even closer to customers than they are today. Their relationships will resemble partnerships even more than today's customer-supplier affiliations.

Successful leaders will communicate frankly and openly with each other through the supply chain, building interconnected systems for sharing of information, measurement, accounting, and just-in-time everything.

Substantially stronger communication means higher uses of technology. The savvy leaders of the 21st century will be quite comfortable with computers, computer-driven communication and systems management, satellite support, global positioning, and cellular telephony that exceeds anything available today. The capacity to truly operate 24/7 on a global basis will transform how business is conducted.

As leaders strive to build and maintain workforce stability, employees will be regarded even more as internal customers. Life balance will be important to tomorrow's employees, and leaders will be expected to serve as role models.

Quality of life issues will be essential, and driven by leaders within the work organization. The quality of life alternatives in the Triad community already make this region attractive for new employers and new employees.

Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders

Where will tomorrow's leaders come from? Some are already in place or are being prepared in their companies today. Others currently in the workplace have yet to be identified and moved into a growth track to build leadership skills.

A substantial number of tomorrow's leaders are still in school--in high school or in colleges and universities. It is essential to invest more--in tax dollars and in other currencies--to strengthen all our schools: public, private, secondary and post-high school. Employers seek communities that emphasize education, as do the kind of families the Triad will seek to attract.

Many college and university students in the Triad region will stay here, particularly if the community works to assure a welcome environment for young, upwardly-mobile, professionals.

Efforts are already underway in this important aspect of our community, but much more needs to be done. We need to support these efforts to prevent a brain drain that could limit the region's potential.

Area educators will prepare the leaders that will be needed in the Triad as the 21st century continues. Leadership in that environment will, in large part, influence the region's future. To produce desired results, today's leaders from all sectors must involve themselves cooperatively with educators to craft a set of competencies for tomorrow's leaders.

Then, collaboratively, educators, businesses, and government must create opportunities for leadership development. As those opportunities are developed and made available, participation must not be limited to young students. People of all ages and backgrounds, including the senior citizens of today and tomorrow will constitute the Triad's 21st century leadership.

The region's leadership for the 21st century will not automatically appear like a superhero from the colorful pages of comic books. This need is real . . . and real efforts must be made today by today's leaders to consciously prepare for tomorrow. The time to begin is now! It's time to get serious.

Roger E. Herman, CMC, is a Strategic Business Futurist based in Greensboro. Known internationally for his insightful perspectives on trends and their influence, he is frequently cited in national news media. CEO of The Herman Group, he is often engaged to speak at management and trade association conferences and to conduct executive briefings for corporate leadership teams. He is author of eleven books, including How to Become an Employer of Choice and Impending Crisis. Contact Roger at 336-282-9370 or roger@hermangroup.com.

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