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The Future of Leadership

Wickland Westcott runs regular Talent Management seminars, and at the most recent event delegates were invited to consider the demands facing future leaders. The guest speaker was Paul Sigsworth of Nestlé UK, who shared the preliminary results of their ground-breaking work in this area.

The starting point for the session was a recognition that whilst the world is changing more quickly than ever, contemporary leadership thinking is not keeping pace. If we are to find leaders genuinely capable of living up to that title, we need to move the leadership agenda off the back foot, and more clearly define the future requirements of leaders in greater detail. Paul outlined how his analysis of current thinking has led him to identify several key themes that are now starting to shape the challenges faced by tomorrow’s leaders.

Specifically, the increased complexity and ambiguity of the external environment, combined with pressures to be creative and deliver within ever shorter timeframes, has led Paul to identify four emerging themes for future leaders. He believes that leaders will need a higher level of external awareness, combined with heightened capabilities in the skills associated with Perceiving, Interpreting and Connecting. All of these areas relate to the death of the “heroic” leader, and the growing need for “authentic” leaders – people capable of providing clarity and simplicity within complex situations, and motivated to engage those around them rather to provide all of the answers themselves.

As well as the commonly accepted (but certainly not commonplace) leadership skills of visioning, strategy, communication, leading change and execution, the future leadership development agenda therefore needs to support people in harnessing diversity, managing ambiguity, building networks, leading virtual teams, and managing their own fitness and wellbeing.

There was particular interest among the delegates in the importance of developing resilience in leaders in order to help them cope with the demands of the role, whilst providing energy to others. A number of delegates highlighted the ongoing efforts they are currently making to accommodate this theme within their own leadership development programmes. Finally, several commented that the increasing focus on authenticity is bringing their organisation’s alignment with its own values into sharp relief - there is now no place for a leader who says one thing but does another.

Wickland Westcott would like to thank Paul Sigsworth and Nestlé UK for supporting this event, and the delegates for their participation in the open discussion.

Wickland Westcott’s Talent Management group is run as a networking and thought leadership forum for those  responsible for building and sourcing Talent. For more information on the group, or the ideas described above, contact John Milsom, Head of Talent  – North.

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