The fundamentals of leadership haven't changed. You lead by example, you inspire team members to do their very best work, you communicate well and often. However, the circumstances surrounding our work are constantly changing. Remote/global workforces, offshore outsourcing, and an unrelenting tide of technology and tools have changed the way we work, and the skills needed to manage our teams.
Case in point: In 1997, as managing editor to a monthly lifestyle magazine, I was coordinating contributors via three archaic tools: phone, fax, and (gasp) pager. At the time, appointments had to be made well in advance and submissions by fax had to be re-encoded manually. Meetings were always done face-to-face, and there was little visibility into what other people were doing. The skills I needed then are still mostly useful, but I've had to learn much more in order to function within a modern startup. There is no doubt that a decade from now, managers will need skills that our parents probably never even dreamed of.
How do you prepare for that unseen future? Simple: you take emerging work trends and extend them forward a few years, predicting which ones have the strongest chance of sticking around. Then you figure out what skills you will need to navigate work within those trends.
Here is my list of the four skills that managers will need to learn in the next decade:
1. Managers Will Need Cross-Cultural Intelligence
TREND: Workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse. Companies of all sizes continue to expand to overseas locations, or engage in offshore outsourcing.
SKILL NEEDED: Managers are being called not just to understand cultural differences, but also be able to switch to different behaviors as the situation dictates.
Cultural intelligence (CQ), like emotional intelligence (EQ), is a relatively new method of understanding ourselves and, in turn, our teammates. Author Julia Middleton explains in her book Cultural Intelligence, that CQ can be broken down into two parts: our core (the behaviors we will not change for anyone) and our flex (those behaviors we can change when needed).
Managers will need to learn to use their flex side in a concept called cultural code-switching, being able to blend with a culture as needed, and even engage in behaviors that may conflict with the culture they grew up with. For example: giving feedback directly as opposed to covering it with humor, or being a more present boss as opposed to letting the team self-organize. The manager's aim should be to focus on the result and think about altering your behavior as a means to meeting your team's end.
2. Managers Will Need Virtual Collaboration Skills
TREND: As organizations source talent from across the globe, remote workforces increase. According to Wrike's Remote Work survey of 1,000 employees, 80% of respondents deal with remote workers on a daily basis, either working with distributed colleagues, or as remote workers themselves.
SKILL NEEDED: Managers must be able to lead their teams and engage with individuals effectively — no matter where in the world they may be stationed.
While face-to-face meetings may remain the norm for companies that exist in only one brick-and-mortar location, it's becoming increasingly common to hold meetings online or in shared virtual spaces. This means managers can no longer assume that attendees are all on the same page, and communication skills must be updated to ensure no misunderstandings happen. Plus, this entails learning the technology needed to communicate effectively.
3. Managers Must Adapt to New Technologies
TREND: New inventions appear everyday, including technologies that make work easier or that fundamentally change the way we work.
SKILL NEEDED: The speed with which new technologies appear requires managers who are flexible enough to learn new tools and incorporate them into daily use.
For example: marketing is an industry where tools are created at the speed of need. While jumping on the bandwagon isn't a formula I'd suggest, it does pay to experiment with new tech. Find out what works. Test which ones make your time more productive. Assemble your toolbox of essential tools and keep it updated.
4. Managers Will Need to Handle Information Overload
TREND: Information overload is a very real thing, especially in our modern workplace. There is a limit to the amount of stuff our minds can process, a.k.a. our cognitive load.
SKILL NEEDED: Managers who want to succeed in the next decade must be able to manage this deluge of data and extract the useful bits from the noise.
For example: they will have to distinguish emergencies amidst the massive influx of messages in their email inboxes. They will have to prioritize work that delivers the most value, even with a huge number of mixed signals from stakeholders. They will have to be strategic despite all the pings and notifications that will have them running to "put out fires." They will need to be masters at prioritizing, time management, and focus if they intend to be successful at work and at life.
What Do You See in Your Crystal Ball?
If you tie all four skills together, the unifying theme is constant learning and flexibility. If you're flexible enough to take what comes and willing to educate yourself on how best to adapt, then the future holds no insurmountable surprises for you.
Do you agree or disagree with my list? Do you see a management skill that's missing? Hit the comments and share your views on what skills managers will need to be successful in the future.
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