The future leaders in our
profession are sending us a message about how
The future leaders in our firms have a keen
understanding of self, and they understand that while they have many fantastic
traits, they are not a superstar at everything.
They push back strongly saying
that in the firm that they build, it will function vastly different than the
one they work in today. Their firm of
the future will be more collaborative and cohesive. These young leaders have been fearless about
change in their lives and that will carry through to the way they build their
firm. Culture, systems and processes
will all change for them, and ultimately will change the entire industry. The secret to all of this change is one
person will not be responsible to create all of this change; it will be a
collaborative – "group think” – mentality that is based on intellectual
So, what are the changes that will take
place in the future?
Change #1 - Collaborative Relationships are King
lone rangers allowed will be the battle cry from leaders. Today, when a new idea develops in a firm, it
is often one leader coming to the group and selling their idea. Then, the idea is implemented by a
committee. In the future, the idea will
be developed by a group of people from the inception and then the entire group
will continue to support and nurture the idea by bringing in other team members
as needed to make the idea better. The
thought process is "let's all sit down at the table and figure this out –
together”. The pattern that will
develop, and ultimately make a good idea a great idea is that by pulling together
everyone’s ideas, thoughts, intellectual capital, the firm will benefit from
the "group think” rather than "individual think”. As you might imagine, there will be little
room for individual egos in this environment.
Silos within the firm will deteriorate and power teams will emerge.
Change #2 – Globalization and Diversity Will Be
today have a reputation for being predominantly male, white and aging at the
partner level, female, middle aged and white at the manager level and slightly
more diverse in race, gender and nationality at the staff level. Given the changing demographics of our
country today, and the reality that our younger leaders have a more diverse and
global outlook of the world, it is safe to say that the "look” of our firms
will change in the future. We are going
to be more colorful and more widespread in our human resources. This is a welcome change by our younger
leaders who have gone to school and often traveled the world with friends of different
nationalities and cultures.
Additionally, this change will require that we put a stronger emphasis
on retention, attraction and motivation of the best talent, and find new ways
to solidify our teams.
Change #3 - Digital Lifestyles and Skills Will Shape
may be a change that most people would simply say "Duh” to. We all realize that digital skills are
changing the leader of the future. The
fact that our future leaders don’t understand why this is a game changer should
tell us something. The majority of our
young leaders have never known a time when they did not have a computer in
their home, and many don’t have any idea what it would be like to go out for an
evening and not have a cell phone to communicate with. This digital lifestyle will never go away –
it just is! Also, keep in mind that as
our young leaders are built this way, so are the young clients that they will
interact with. This new digital reality
is certain to shape the firm of our future.
Change #4 - A Sense of Purpose and Dedication
interesting trait that will be a game changer for the leaders of our future
firm is that these leaders will be less concerned about their own goals and
more concerned about their overall team.
This goes back to change #1 in building the relationships, but it also
emphasizes that this group of people have been programmed from their growing up
years to care for their community and others.
Think about the youth of today and how they are taught, motivated and
rewarded in schools today to care for their community and work with their
classmates on projects. They will never be satisfied in their work life not
using these skills to develop a sense of purpose and dedication for the overall
firm and team, not just themselves.
Change #5 - Mentoring Is Out, Sponsoring Is In
leaders are not uneducated, and they are realists that not everyone is going to
want grow at the same time or the same pace as the next person. They also realize that not everyone has the
aptitude to be promoted to leadership positions. Rather than developing
mentoring programs where everyone is treated exactly the same, they will opt
for picking the players that are the best and then developing a close
relationship with that person to sponsor them and grow them into one of the
leadership positions that is required in the firm. Even though some of them were raised
in an environment where everyone got a blue ribbon or a gold medal, they
understand that "one on one” sponsorship will provide an individual with the
training that is best for them and far more productive and valuable than a
program that is "one size fits all”.
Change #6 - Health and Well Being Are Essential
a world where obesity seems to be the bane of our existence, the next generation
leader will understand and support a work environment that promotes the physical
and mental health of their team. Through
education, experience and a world that is fighting to control the balance
between life and work, this new leadership group will put more emphasis on
healthy lifestyles both in the office and outside the office. The reward will be higher productivity,
morale and retention rates.
With all of these changes upon us, how can
the current leadership group help prepare and start implementing today?
Change #7 - Team Development and Hiring Changes
your current team and begin to look critically at the skills that are not in
your firm today. Are you a firm that is
full of researcher oriented people, but the number of process oriented project
leaders are lacking? Or, do you have a
firm full of introverted followers who take direction well, but not many
individuals who are hungry to "own” responsibilities and want to lead initiatives
in the firm. After you analyze your
current situation, then prepare to hire for more than the technical needs of
today, but also the leadership needs of the future. Firms absolutely need skills and abilities,
but they also need emotional intelligence.
This will require analysis, new hiring skills and a dedication to
changing old habits. Remember, if you
continue to hire, promote and motivate the way you have in the past, you will
get the same talent you have had in the past, and that will not be good enough
in the future.
Change #8 - Form a Future Leader Initiative
must listen carefully and hear what their people are telling them. Leaders must also understand that putting
together the leadership of the future requires that they look at each person as
a separate and unique individual – identifying the unique characteristics that
they have and allowing them to develop those skills. Just because someone is not the best business
developer does not mean they are not valuable, they may indeed have a gift for
putting processes in place that will save the firm hours in productivity and
efficiency. Another person who is a superb
business developer, may not like to research new systems and the leader sees
that their motivation will come from front stage projects dealing with client
and prospect interactions. One is not
wrong or less valuable, both are equally amazing. A positive way to find out what is floating
around in your future leaders minds is to form a "Tomorrows Leaders Initiative”
in your firm. Give them objectives, but
let them figure out the strategies, ideas and timelines for initiatives that
will help the firm prepare for the future.
Change #9 - Get Flexible With Learning and Training
some firms are still struggling to develop cookie cutter learning ladders and
training plans that will work for everyone in the firm, the firm of the future
will have career planning and learning ladders that are much less linear and
far more individualized. Flexibility
will be imperative and lateral moves will be much more accepted and encouraged. This would be an excellent project for a
Tomorrows Leaders group to work on.
Change #10 - Replace Pen and Paper with Real Words
are a paper and pencil kind of world when it comes to feedback and performance
are an industry that is nice and caring. Often, this translates to thinking
through how you want to nicely give someone feedback on their performance,
writing it down and then delivering by letting them read what you wrote. The verbal exchange is short, sweet and to
the point, and often has not intrinsic value to the team member. Progressive firms today are teaching their
leaders to have verbal exchanges with their team members and using the paper as
simply backup to the conversation. These
conversations are critical to developing the relationships that are valued by
the individual and to enact the performance that we desire from each
person. Some will think this is contrary
to the digital lifestyle that this younger leader is accustomed to, but it
plays well into the close relationship that they are hungry for within their
Is this new leader, and new
leadership style of the future complicated? Yes! Is it rewarding? Absolutely! As
we approach a new year, I challenge each of you to rethink your current
leadership style and commit to making changes that will assist your firm is
taking positive steps toward a firm that future leaders will be attracted to,
and will be excited about helping to build.