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5 key skills vital for the next generation of leaders

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By Philippa White, Founder and CEO, The International Exchange

We are living at a moment of profound disruption. It has changed the way we work and created unique demands on leaders.

Everyone is adjusting and looking for their role to respond.

Skills that companies previously overlooked, are now essential.

We need professionals who can both think and feel. They need to have direction and vision butmust remain flexible and open to change.  Because we know that the fundamentals of the system have to change for a sustainable future to be possible.

What does that future look like? It must stem from our humanity.  Our innate sense of right and wrong.

Now, more than ever, we need leaders capable of meaningful change.Leaders who are able to step out of their silos, andbe comfortable with ambiguous situations. Leaders who will challenge the way things are, and fight for more human and responsible business practices.

Problems to be solved, and opportunities to be seized.

But, the key, is being open to learn. And realise that no one has all of the answers.

From my work with The International Exchange over the years, I have found these five critical leadership abilities havebeen vital for the creation of sustainable and long-lasting solutions to real challenges:

1 Embrace Diversity:

The reality is, leaders can’t think as well if they aren’t working in a diverse team. Diversity leads to better innovation and more creative thinking. Your cultural background, which has to do with race, nationality, language and upbringing, defines what you are capable of inventing, and your imagination. Your powers of creativity. So, if you work with a group of people, all from the same background, trying to solve a problem, it’s unlikely you will come up with anything new. The key is to expand your personal circle and work in diverse teams. This will be your superpower. The results will simply be more creativity and more innovative solutions.

2 Transcend Adversity:

My many years of studying professionals in adverse situations has proven to me that great leaders come to be by the way they handle adversity. Bennis and Thomas, a few years back, published a Harvard Business review article that suggests that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is the ability to take something from the most challenging of circumstances and learn from difficult events.  The skills needed to transcend adversity and emerge stronger and more determined than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.

3 Spark Enthusiasm:

Passion and enthusiasm are key to motivation. Great leaders are passionate about what they do and convey that passion and enjoyment. Things are not easy, and a leader that is hopeful, encouraging and enthusiastic will draw others to follow them on their mission. With this enthusiastic vision, you’ll be able to rally people behind your cause and build momentum behind your ideas.

4 Defy convention:

Leadership actually means finding a new direction. Doing things differently and leading the way. I love this quote by Rollo May: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity”.  We know that companies need to change – especially now. That’s the very thing that will ensure their survival, and the survival of the human race. If the status quo makes you uneasy, you see opportunity in doing things differently, and you believe you can make a difference. Then having this self-awareness, determination and purpose, will make you a true leader.

5 Honour Team: 

As a leader, you need to realise that more heads are better than one. Collaboration is key, and your team needs to feel listened to, understood, and valued. Your team need to feel as though you believe in them, that you’ll fight for them, and you need to celebrate their accomplishments. Being able to collaborate and work with a range of people throughout the company or network, at varying levels and from different silos, will help develop your ideas into something that will become a reality.

Society and traditional learning are pushing people into specializations. But the world is changing quickly, and human beings reject being painted into a corner. Successful leaders will be able to bridge different areas, network with different people, respond to different challenges and be able to see connection between different products, solutions and think in innovative ways.  Focus on really honing these competencies above, and you will be just the leader the world needs.

About the Author

Philippa Whiteis Founder and CEO of The International Exchange (TIE),a world-leading international leadership programme for commercial professionals looking for personal and professional growth through experiential purpose-driven learning. Following a hugely successful career in advertising working for some of London’s biggest agencies, Philippa launched CPD-accredited TIE in 2006. Philippa is passionate about bringing out the best in people – their humanity, their ingenuity, their mojo – as she believes it will lead to a better world. TIE cohorts receive experiential learning, helping to effect tangible change by working directly with NGOs globally. Through Philippa’s inspired course design, alumni expand their horizons and push their boundaries. They learn how to step out of siloed thinking, work collaboratively, communicate more effectively, discover their purpose and new-found confidence.

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