Next Generation Leadership Skills: Collaboration, Cultural Awareness and Foreign Language Skills

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What skills or characteristics do the next generation of business leaders need? Collaboration, cultural awareness and foreign language skills have been found to be among the top leadership skills every business will want to see in its most senior positions.

Over the next decade, many senior executives that are leading today’s most successful companies will retire. Many of these leaders are babyboomers and have left their own explicit marks on the business world we know and love. The question now is: who will fill these impressive shoes and how will they fill them? According to current senior executives, businesses must embrace the “feminine” characteristics of collaboration and cultural awareness to enable future success.

The Cass Business School, as highlighted by the Guardian, conducted some research into this subject, interviewing leading senior executives about their views on this subject. Researcher Richard Boggis-Rolfe explains the research lead to some interesting results: the seniors execs particularly valued emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility, characteristics that are often viewed as feminine. In addition, they felt cultural awareness and knowledge of other languages will grow in importance as well.

Businesses cannot move onto their next generations of leaders without a transition period in which these new changes are implemented gradually, Boggis-Rolfe says. If these changes are made at board level, companies will continue to be successful. However, the current leadership will have to change in two ways: about 70 per cent of the test subjects felt both collaboration and cultural awareness will become increasingly important. According to the study, the interviewees felt he abovementioned feminine leadership skills are very important to achieve this.

cultural awareness skills leadership

The senior executives agreed collaboration and cultural awareness were important, but even a bigger number of them saw the need for speaking a foreign language. As more and more companies expand their businesses over their borders, 86 per cent of the interviewed seniors saw this as a great skill for future executives.

foreign language skills leadership

Even though the respondents knew what leadership changes were required in the future, only 41 per cent of the executives believed their business was ready for these changes. Some work must be done then to enable future success. Boggis-Rolfe believes the approach of the post-babyboom era means that companies must “put serious thought and effort into smoothing the intergenerational transition for leaders from Generations X and Y.” The knowledge and experience that is on hand in companies must be passed on to new generations through mentorships. In addition, Boggis-Rolfe advises companies to find ways to accommodate for different ways of working and motivations the different generations have. This might imply flatter organisation structures and the possibility of freer movement throughout the company.

Concluding, Boggis-Golfe does not believe adapting equals great change. On the contrary! The shifts that need to be made in business culture and priorities are merely small and subtle ones. And two other key features that future executives must possess?

“As with tomorrow’s leaders, flexibility and a focus on people will be key survival attributes for tomorrow’s leading organisations.”

Get your copy of the full report here: After the Baby Boomers: The Next Generation of Leadership

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