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Tomorrow’s Leaders: We Don’t Want a Carbon Cut-out!

I don’t think I’m alone when I say there’s a shortage of great leaders.

Anyone who spends time moving in business circles knows that the problems of today are unlikely to be solved by the leaders who honed their skills in the past; and that the leaders of tomorrow are not emerging fast enough.

But we don’t often talk about the leadership deficit that is leaving a big hole in our future.

There are always multiple factors at play when a crisis of this nature looms large, so it would be naive to over-simplify it. However, I think there are two significant factors that carry the lion’s share of responsibility for the state we find ourselves in today. 

  1. The leaders who got there the hard way (on their own, treading on toes, hugely ambitious, who turned arrogance into an art-form) don’t value ‘leadership development’ and don’t invest in it for their ultimate replacements. They didn’t need it so why should the new generation?

  2. But our potential leaders of the future are also a block, because they base their opinion of leadership on what they see today or what they have grown up experiencing from their hierarchical superiors. It leads them to the conclusion that “I’m not cut out to be a leader” or “I don’t see myself as leader material”. So they don’t put themselves forward. They don’t want to compete. It’s less “if you can’t beat them, join them” and more “if you can’t compete with them, walk away!”

Tackling these two factors is no easy feat. If new leaders are to emerge they need to be allowed to grow into the type of leader that’s fit for a 21st century, post-recession economy. In fact, they need to help get us out of recession and stay out!

Who’s going to train them, mentor them and invest in them? The people with the money, authority, and definitely the need, aren’t taking the lead here. These senior leaders who know no other way to lead other than the way they have led in the past are not best-placed to see this leadership revolution through. They are unlikely to recognise the need or sign the cheques.

There will always be enlightened leaders who realise they are ill-equipped and need to develop a new breed of leaders who will do things differently. But there simply aren’t enough of those about.

So where does that leave us? Can we persuade these leadersaurus’s to see their

It’s not impossible, but it’s a tough ask and it might take too long?

In the meantime, the situation gets worse and worse. It’s a ticking time bomb where no-one actually gets killed but everyone eventually suffers.

So if new leaders are to emerge and take up their rightful positions at the head of our most important companies and institutions, the lead is going to have to come from them. This won’t happen if they continue to view the leadership model of the past and present as the leadership model of the future.

When we believe “we’re not cut out to be a leader”, we’re basing that on an outdated and inappropriate image of leadership. We are assuming that there is a template we have to mould our self to.

 I don’t know about you but I’m disturbed by the idea of being led by a carbon cut-out!

 If the notion of authentic leadership is truly to take hold, we need to allow ourselves to be authentic. That means:

  1. finding your leadership from within yourself: allowing your principles, values, strengths, and capabilities to inform the type of leader you are

  2. recognising your uniqueness and not apologising for it

  3. learning from the past whilst not being locked in it

  4. having the courage to stand alone if that is the right thing to do

  5. standing up and putting yourself forward even if you don’t fit the historical or current notion of what a leader ‘should’ be

The problems of today won’t be solved by the solutions of the past. So let’s stop expecting the leaders who are past it to get us out of today’s fix.

Step forward and take your places. Let the new leadership dance begin.

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