CEO of the New Zealand Institute of Management and Leadership.
There used to be one question I would consistently be asked, more than any other: How does a young leader gain leadership skills without an opportunity to lead?
In the past few months this question has been superseded by another: What will work look like in the future and what direction should I take to ensure I have a job?
The focus has shifted from ‘being the leader, boss or owner’ to more of a raw desire to retain any hold in the workplace by having an employable skill.
I am not sure I know the answer, beyond a logical and pragmatic response to the digital age. However, I do think our current environment requires us to include innovative thinking in our approach to staying employed – and the more agile our mindset, the greater our chance of survival or success.
For example, some universities have moved to pre-recorded lectures and removed the opportunities for face-to-face engagement. Does this mean that in future we will no longer require academics? I think not.
We can acknowledge the significant steps forward in terms of getting a computer to ‘think’ (and even to demonstrate ‘emotion’ and ‘empathy’) however, there is much to be said for ‘seeing the whites of their eyes’ in order to be fully engaged and actively challenged.
Preparedness for employment opportunities in the future may be led more by growth in emerging industries than by losses of specific roles. The change may not look like the sudden eradication of a function, but instead an evolution of a current job to meet unfolding needs.
For example, information technology is our fastest growing export sector and will still require leaders, will most definitely require innovators and creative thinkers, and will certainly continue to require people to produce and sell products.
If it is to be that our businesses will be smaller in terms of the number of people employed, then should our focus be on creating more of them?
Our long-standing industries such as health, education, social services, agriculture and tourism are expected to continue offering good employment opportunities and in New Zealand that’s great news, as they are the foundation of ‘who we are’ as an economic provider.
With an understanding of our key employment opportunities and attention focused on creating more SME size organisations – the next question I will be asking is not as simple as ‘developing a leader’ or ‘what will my job look like?’ but: ‘What will the pattern of our changing work environment look like?’ so that I start moving in that direction as a leader.