In January, LinkedIn released a list of the skills organisations will need most in 2019. Four of the top five had a distinctly digital flavour: cloud computing, AI, analytical reasoning and UX development. And that’s for all organisations, not just tech companies.

Maybe today that list doesn’t seem surprising, but just a few years back it would have been almost unimaginable. It’s one tiny example of the enormous challenge all organisations face: how do you prepare for the future when you have no idea what’s coming?

Navigating the disruptive forces shaping the future of work requires a new kind of future-ready leader: The Self-Disruptive Leader. Korn Ferry’s latest research reveals this leader to be someone who can reinvent themselves over and over, who continuously adapts to the changing environment and responds appropriately.

We can list the behaviours and qualities of these leaders, but what really differentiates them is much more fundamental: they’re intrinsically attuned to change, powered by flexible mindsets of the highest order. Organisations need more of these leaders now, but traditional leadership programs aren’t delivering them. Things need to change.

Mindset over matter

When we talk about mindset, we’re really referring to the set of general attitudes that shape the way we think about things and how we make sense of the world. They’re set deep within us, drawing on our core beliefs, but showing themselves in our behaviours as we navigate the real world.

For Self-Disruptive Leaders, their mindsets are their super power. They enable them to keep pace with the rapidly transforming environments that threaten slower-moving peers. Other leaders – in fact the majority (85%) of leaders, based on our research – are paralysed by the kryptonite-like effects of yesterday’s mindsets.

To become future-ready, these leaders must rise above their existing frame to access the same flexible mindsets of their self-disrupting colleagues. While it’s a big gap to close, it can be done. Where it was once thought that cognitive development plateaued in adulthood, we now know that we can push our minds in new and different directions. But it won’t be done through traditional leadership development approaches

New mindsets, new approach

True self-disruptors are hard to find and organisations can’t rely on bringing them in from outside. The gap needs to be closed from within.

Traditional leadership development has focused on skills and behaviours, but this won’t be enough. This isn’t to say that skills and behaviours aren’t important, they most certainly are. But by shifting mindsets, leaders can expand the ways in which they can deploy their behaviours and skills. To do more, they have to be more.

Organisations need to revolutionise how they develop leaders to close this leadership gap. This can only be done by embracing a culture that empowers everyone to challenge their own thinking and disrupt themselves. Development can no longer be top-down but must cultivate self-disruptive behaviour at all levels.

Start the revolution

Calling this a leadership development revolution is a big call, but we believe it’s warranted. To make change this big, organisations need to start with the right fundamentals:

  1. Slow down to accelerate: speed is given great privilege in today’s market, but embedding a new leadership paradigm won’t happen overnight. Instead take Kevin Cashman’s advice and pause first. Mindsets will only shift through thoughtful and intentional work, so take the time to reset.
  2. Put self-awareness at the centre: closing the leadership gap will require individuals, backed by the organisation, to make an intense investment in transforming the self. This can only be done through self-awareness, so build the feedback culture to support this work.
  3. Commit to mindset ahead of capability: investing in capability building – especially in the digital space – can feel like a quick win. And it will be just that. To develop Self-Disruptive Leaders requires playing the long game. It means working to create experiences that challenge beliefs and assumptions. It can be uncomfortable, but it can also unleash new levels of energy and optimism – new mindsets – to take on the future.

Learn more about the mindset of future-ready leaders, read The Self-Disruptive Leader and get ready to revolutionise your leadership development.

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About Contributor

Nick is a leadership and team effectiveness specialist with more than 20 years experience in senior Human Capital and Consulting roles across Asia Pacific. He is head of Korn Ferry's Leadership Development practice for Australia and New Zealand. Nick advises Boards, CEOs and senior executives across a range of industries for improved performance through leadership & succession capability.

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