We stand today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. The unprecedented advance in technology is disrupting our world as we know it and will continue to fundamentally shift and change the way we live, work, engage, relate and connect with one another.
Through rose coloured glasses, this revolution will not only change the face and nature of work by freeing people from the shackles of “jobs”, allowing the pursuit of more rewarding vocations – it also stands to improve the quality of life of populations around the world.
At the same time we are experiencing momentous socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic change that is resulting in more and more diverse, mobile and globalised societies. Look around you and for the first time in history you will find yourself working alongside four different generations. You, your boss, your direct report, your colleagues, your clients and your friends, were probably born in a different country (or born to parents who were), will ascribe to a different faith, will have varying ethnic backgrounds, and will potentially migrate in the future.
The advantages of harnessing diversity have been well documented. When the right enablers are in place, we know that diversity improves decision-making and problem-solving and can lead to enhanced commercial and financial performance in business, not to mention the potential and significant social and community gains.
While we stand to benefit from these technological and demographic shifts, challenges emerge for leaders in these times. The integration and increase of technology in our lives is leading to a reduction in fundamental important human capacities including compassion and the preparedness for cooperation. This is a concern noting it really is empathy and our emotional intelligence that enables us to appreciate different perspectives and to understand the people around us, including our teams, and thus how to help them reach optimal capacity and productivity.
To take advantage of our digital and global world and workforce, leaders of tomorrow will need to revert to human basics and focus on developing empathetic understanding and emotional intelligence and develop the art of being inclusive. In the current context, this will need to be developed alongside cultural competence and capability.
I do reject the notion that the impetus and need to focus on the development of empathy and emotional intelligence is a matter reserved for “leaders”. As individuals and global citizens, residing in a complex web of networks, we all have our own sphere of influence. We are therefore all leaders in our own right. Our greatness in this role will however depend on commitment to building these capabilities.