Jacob Morgan has charted a bold path to becoming what he is today—one of the world's foremost authorities on leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. In his first job out of college, he was told he'd be doing all sorts of exciting, meaningful, and impactful work. However, a couple of months in, he was stuck doing unrewarding tasks like data entry, cold calling, and making PowerPoint presentations until he decided to venture out on his own, without having to work for anybody else ever again. Since then, Jacob has been passionate about "creating organizations where people want to show up to work." In this exclusive interaction with Human Capital, the four-time bestselling author, renowned speaker, and futurist shares unique insights into the future of leadership by drawing on extensive research and discussions with the world's top business leaders.
We must begin on a congratulatory note with well merited kudos to you on your new book, The Future Leader. In what unique ways does this book address the question on the future of leadership?
Thank you very much! This was the hardest book I’ve written, and I think it’s the world’s most unique leadership book for a few reasons. First, it’s focused on the future, looking out over the next ten years. Second, it’s based on exclusive interviews with over 140 of the world’s top CEOs from companies like Oracle, Unilever, MasterCard, Verizon, Audi, InterContinental Hotels Group, and dozens of others. Third, it’s also based on a survey of nearly 14,000 employees around the world done in partnership with LinkedIn. This means that I was able to compare the perspectives and insights from employees across a variety of seniority levels to see where the gaps are.
What does your extensive research reveal about the leadership mindsets and skills that will be needed to thrive in 2020 and beyond?
From the 140 CEOs I interviewed, I found there are a set of four mindsets and five skills that are essential for future leaders. All of these are important today, but many of us work for and with leaders who don’t possess them. In the future, these skills and mindsets will become like air and water. I call these the Notable Nine.
The four mindsets are:
Global Citizen: Leaders need to understand and appreciate new cultures, actively seek out diverse teams, lead employees with different backgrounds, and have the knowhow to enter and succeed in new global markets.
Servant: The mindset of the servant means that you practice humility and that you serve four groups: your leaders (if you have them), your customers, your team, and yourself.
Chef: Just like chefs balance numerous ingredients to create masterful meals, leaders must balance the two most important ingredients of any business: humanity and technology.
Explorer: Just like explorers had to learn continually, leaders need to be super perpetual learners and practice curiosity.
The five skills are:
Coach: The future leaders need to appreciate employees as individuals, as opposed to viewing everyone as just workers. The best coaches and leaders develop their people to be more successful than themselves.
Futurist: Futurists consider multiple scenarios and think through new possibilities.
Technology Teenager: Teenagers seem to always be current on the latest technology, and future leaders must be the same way.
Translator: Translators are master communicators. They listen to understand and do more than just hear what people are saying.
Yoda: In the future, leaders need to be emotionally intelligent like Yoda and develop their empathy and self-awareness.
What are some of the common mistakes you see organizations repeatedly make in developing next-generation leaders?
There are a few things to consider. First, most employees don’t start leadership development programs until they are in their 40s, yet they actually become leaders in their 20s and 30s. This means that people spend 10–20 years of their life leading others, without actually being taught anything about leadership! We shouldn’t be shocked that so many employees around the world are not engaged in their jobs.
Another common mistake is not taking a step back to actually define who a leader is and what leadership means. How is it that in the same organization, you have some leaders who everyone admires and wants to work with and other leaders who everyone hates and stays away from? It’s because the people who promoted them have different definitions of “leader” and “leadership”. For some, leadership is about driving business performance at the cost of everything else. For others, it’s about putting people first and truly caring about those who work there. We don’t spend enough time defining and explaining these things because we all assume that we know what they are, but we don’t!
How you define “leader” and “leadership” will determine the type of culture you create and the filters you have in place to promote other leaders. From the 140 CEOs I interviewed, I received 140 different responses!
Technology is rapidly seeping into every fibre of business and society. How will powerful technology like artificial intelligence impact leadership?
AI and technology will make it blatantly clear who the bad and good leaders are. Leaders typically focus on two things. The first is decision-making, and the second is getting people to move in the direction of that decision. We are already starting to see the influx of technology now, which is making decisions faster and more accurately than humans. You can imagine what this will look like in the next decade. So if you’re a bad leader who just focuses on telling other people what to do and making decisions, then what good are you if technology handles that? However, if you’re a great leader and you also focus on the human aspects of leadership like emotional intelligence, coaching and mentoring, engaging and motivating others, and the like, then your value to the organization increases tenfold!
Adopting a ‘growth mindset’ has been hailed as one of the most significant pieces of leadership success in today’s modern, fast-changing times. How can traditional leaders foster and internalize this mindset?
Having a growth mindset is, of course, important, but when you look at the mindsets that the CEOs identified, then having a growth mindset is maybe just 10% of the total required mindsets for future leaders. Leaders, to create a growth mindset, must view obstacles and challenges as something to overcome. Leaders must also accept that their abilities are not fixed, but can be grown, developed, and improved. Then, the last part of this is to actually spend the time and energy to learn and grow!
Employee engagement is a timeless business topic full of diverse viewpoints and solutions. You often say that while investment in employee engagement is growing, the scores remain at an all-time low. Why might this be, and how can this be countered?
The problem is we view employee engagement like an adrenaline shot inside of our organizations; we wait for our employees to hate their jobs, and then we introduce something like free food or hot yoga to try to make them more engaged.
Most companies view employee engagement as a perk as opposed to changing the core workplace practices at their organization. This is why I focus so much on employee experience, which is a collection of three environments: culture, technology, and physical space. Focusing on employee experience is what leads to an engaged workforce. Experience is the cause, and engagement is the effect.
Up-Close and Personal
What’s one of your favourite memories from the past year? Also, what’s something you are doing or want to do in 2020 that you’ve never done before?
From the past year, my favourite memories are taking trips with my wife, playing in my first chess tournament, and eating at a few famous restaurants! As far as something I want to do, I try to do one new thing each year. In the past, this included things like starting a podcast and creating online courses, among others. For 2020, I’ve started doing a daily unfiltered vlog where I record a short video (about 3–8 minutes) each day sharing an idea, something I learned, an article I read, or something I’m pondering.
What are your top productivity hacks?
I don’t check email or social media until 4 pm every day. I have disabled all social media and email notifications to my phone. I don’t have meetings on Mon/Wed/Fri of each week, and when I do have meetings, I batch them together. I also say “no” to a lot of things.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I play competitive chess and racquetball!
Want to see if you have the skills and mindsets to be a future leader? Take the assessment here: http://futureleadersurvey.com
Sign up for the Leadership Reset and join thousands of others who get free access to 31 days of video coaching and training sessions where Jacob shares leadership tips from the world’s top CEOs.
To learn more about Jacob, visit TheFutureOrganization.com or email him directly at [email protected]on.com
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