Leadership for 2040

By Romaric Bouveret, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program

Rom BouveretIn early 1990 in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was still in prison and negotiations had just begun to end apartheid. At the same time in Australia, Bob Hawke became Prime Minister for the fourth time and Treasurer Paul Keating announced an economic recession. Today, after twenty-five years of radical changes in governments, and even revolutions, the political environment across the globe has evolved remarkably. While we expect constant renewal and innovation in political leadership, we expect business leadership to be an ongoing and uninterrupted effort. In the US for example, the average tenure of a CEO is around 10 years, two times longer than the average tenure of the president.

Most of my peers at the University of Sydney Business School praise the MBA program because they can apply much of their learning the day they return to their workplace. This is great because it shows that the learning is directly applicable to their professional career and organisation. For me, however, the MBA program also provides the framework to develop skills that will be required to lead public and private organisations in 2020, 2030 and even 2040. In fact, I have no doubt that the younger MBA students, who are in their 20s, are likely to still be managing organisations and leading people in 40 years to come! This is why an MBA program focused on Future Anything, like the University of Sydney Business School program, not only supplies tomorrow’s leaders, it also prepares future leaders by encouraging them to review, learn, evaluate, question, reflect and think.

In 1990, a British computer scientist called Tim Berners-Lee created the WorldWideWeb (www). It is predicted by many experts that by 2040 computers will be as intelligent as humans. In fact, Stephen Hawkins’ prophesy is that “computers will overtake humans with AI (artificial intelligence) at some point” and computers might even be more intelligent than humans by 2060. Given the technical and societal progress we have made in the last 25 years, it is legitimate to ask what work is going to be like in 2040. Is it going to be done by humans or computers? Is it going to be done in a shared office in a CBD or a lonely space station a few light years from the Earth, on one of the 20 billion livable planets in the Milky Way? What is life going to be like with self-driving cars, trucks, trains and planes? Will postcards and emails still exist?

It is probably impossible to seriously predict life in 2040, and everything we read today could be wild speculation. But MBA programs not only need to teach students how to tackle issues relevant in 2015, like diversity and flexibility, they also need to prepare leaders for 2040.

When asked to write about what qualities the leaders of today and tomorrow need to lead effectively, I first thought about IQ and EQ. I don’t know what leadership is going to be like in 2040 – which is only 25 years from now! But I think that a high “AQ”, “artificial quotient”, the intelligence with which we use computers, may develop and become imperative. Of course, leaders will still be people who hold high values, display authenticity, and help achieve goals and  success. But the people I will likely respect and follow are also those that understand the changes that occur around them. I believe that the MBA program at the University of Sydney Business School is giving me the tools to better lead people and organisations today, as well as culturing a framework for myself and  future leaders to continue to improve until 2040 and beyond.

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