Connected leadership is an emerging view of leadership as an inclusive and collective networked activity occurring throughout organizations. Out of this project grew the Changing Nature of Leadership (CNL) research. Its focus: to explore the current field of leadership and forecast future trends. CNL relied on several interdependent streams of research, including academic literature, surveys, benchmarking and classroom research.

More than 500 respondents completed one or more aspects of the research. Of these respondents, 84 percent believe that the definition of effective leadership has changed in the last five years – indicating some interesting trends in leadership. But the question remains: How has leadership changed and will it look different in the future?

The results across our numerous data points to one conclusion: Leadership is changing and approaches focusing on flexibility, collaboration, crossing boundaries and collective leadership are expected to become a high priority.

CHALLENGES ARE BECOMING MORE COMPLEX

Prior to examining leadership directly, it is important to first look at the challenges facing organizations and their leaders. It is clear that the challenges are becoming more complex and therefore more difficult to solve. Leaders consider these challenges to be within their problem solving expertise, yet most are taking more than six months to solve, suggesting that known solutions are not working effectively. Additionally, when leadership is viewed as a whole (across the organization), less than half of the respondents believe the expected outcomes of leadership are being met effectively.

GREATER RELIANCE ON INTERDEPENDENT WORK

Respondents agree that the challenges leaders are facing go beyond their individual capabilities, and that these challenges result in a greater reliance on interdependent work across boundaries.

SHIFTING REWARD SYSTEM

Leaders would like to see their organizations shift reward systems to a balance of rewarding short-term, individual production and collaboration to reach long-term objectives. Specifically, teamwork will need to be a greater focus in rewards.

THE RISE OF A NEW LEADERSHIP SKILL SET

Asking leaders to focus more energy on creating an environment where others can help them succeed is another important trend. This becomes apparent when comparing the individual skills deemed most important in 2002 with those expected to be important two years in the future. Participative management, building and mending relationships, and change management rose to the top in the future, replacing skills such as resourcefulness, decisiveness and doing whatever it takes.

VIEWING LEADERSHIP AS A COLLECTIVE PROCESS

When examining an organization’s approach to leadership from the past to the future, we see movement from more individual approaches (i.e., leadership as a position) to those that are more collective (i.e., leadership as a process). Specifically, respondents believe organizations will continue to move toward viewing leadership as a process that happens throughout the organization through interdependent decision making.

GLOBAL ORGANIZATIONS ARE AT THE CUTTING EDGE OF COLLECTIVE LEADERSHIP

With the inclusion of a large international sample, we were able to examine trends in U.S. versus European and Asian populations. These findings show that organizations in Europe and Asia-Pacific made a significant jump from individual to collective leadership approaches from the past to the present, when compared to U.S. organizations. In the future, these global organizations expect to have fewer boundaries and rely more on emergent strategy when compared to U.S. organizations.

About the Author:

André Martin a former enterprise associate with the Center for Creative Leadership, is currently the Leadership Development Director for Mars, Inc. André holds a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from St. Louis University.

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