Whether we like it or not, Brexit is the new reality here in the UK. Whilst the impact of the recent referendum on our political leaders has been quick and dramatic, the impact on our economy is still uncertain. What is clear, is that rarely have leaders had to face such a dramatic shift in the external environment in which they operate, one where both the threats and the opportunities are unclear and where clarity will only emerge in the months, maybe even years, to come.
What can be certain is that agile and skilled leadership is required now more than ever before. The times they are a changing and the leaders of the future need to be more skilled, more creative and more strategically focused than their predecessors ever had to be if we are to succeed.
Luckily, most of the talent that will take up leadership roles in the next few years are the most educated, most networked and most global thinking citizens we have ever had. Their ability to take on the emerging challenges and succeed with innovative and impactful ideas, plans and actions will be the engine that drives the growth of the UK economy in the near term. Behind all the rhetoric, hyperbole, threats and political shenanigans it was this hope that Brexiters were relying on to grow our economy and now we have to make it so!
A few years ago we did some research by interviewing leaders from a number of organisations drawn from different sectors throughout the UK. To complement current leaders’ views, we also interviewed a number of recently graduated professionals from a similar range of organisations to get their perspective on future leadership challenges. We compared their aspirations with what current leaders think and drew some conclusions that can benefit all leaders who are wondering how best to cope with the unknown challenges Brexit may throw up.
One of the key conclusions is that, whilst many good intentions abound, and developing leaders of the future is clearly important, it is rarely seen as urgent. Many of today’s leaders seem keen to focus their scarce time and energy on responding to the short term operational realities they are facing. This lure of the short term is understandable, however there is a much bigger opportunity being missed.
The future leaders we spoke to are watching, waiting and are keen to step up and take on new leadership responsibilities. This is an untapped resource in many organisations that can be deployed to tackle not only current performance issues but also the future challenges that are coming into view on the edge of the strategic planning horizon. The energy of these future leaders needs to be harnessed and used well, even more so in the current climate, which is likely to demand radical actions, new ways of thinking and new ways of working.
Everyone we spoke to agreed that developing leadership talent is an ‘adaptive’ not a ‘technical’ challenge. This means we have to train future leaders to adapt, respond, develop and grow and not simply provide them with tools and techniques to do their current roles better. In our experience new leaders are best developed by exposing them to both the ‘here and now’ challenges and opportunities faced by organisations and to consider those challenges that may well emerge in the future.
The future leaders we spoke to are all keen to get going but existing hierarchies are rarely that flexible and new leadership roles do not appear on demand. As a result of this challenge we developed our Leadership 2020 programme.
The aim of this programme is to future proof organisations and expose future leaders to a leading edge training and development programme designed to equip them to satisfy their potential and deliver real value to their organisation and the community in which they work. For further details on our Leadership 2020 programme please click here.
Now, more than ever, developing leaders of the future has to move up the ‘to-do’ lists of all existing leaders. Investing in your talent is the best way to future proof your organisation and gives you the best chance nullify any threats and optimize whatever opportunities Brexit will present in the future.