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The Extra Leader Avatar

The Extra Leader Avatar

Vladimir Lenin quoted many years ago, "There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen." 

2020 has been a 'black swan' event in the history of the earth. Covid-19 was an unpredicted event and had severe consequences on the world. Changes in the legacy processes severely impacted the business world.

The future is already here. We have fast-tracked digital transformation into a time-lapse. What would have been achieved in 5 years is happening today after the 5 months of lockdown. Business and industry have been unlocked through concepts like virtual teams, virtual meetings, work-from-home, sanitizers, face masks, social distancing, etc. If not for the pandemic, we would have seen these concepts gradually coming into mainstream life only in 2030. 

Travel and hospitality have changed too. We have to deal with contactless services, social distancing, high levels of sterilization and sanitation, wearing masks, and many more. This has changed the fundamental concept of a 'high-touch' nature of hospitality and rocketed the industry into a framework of accelerated digital transformation and still be able to deliver delight to the customer.

We are on the threshold of walking into the next decade. Leadership may still be required to set a vision and forge a strategy to reach the destination together. Also, the future leader will need a new bag of skills and qualities.

Leaders need to hit the road running into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The word 'fourth industrial revolution' was coined by Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum in 2016. His definition: "The Fourth Industrial Revolution creates a world in which virtual and physical systems of manufacturing cooperate flexibly at the global level". In a way, he described it as the merging of the physical, digital, and biological worlds forming the new world we live in. It will be driven mainly by high-speed mobile technology, artificial intelligence/automation, cloud technology, and big data analytics. 

The world economic forum has predicted that in the next decade, 75 million jobs will become redundant and replaced by 133 million new jobs. The near future -which is now – will see driverless cars, retail, and hospitality run by artificial intelligence, deliveries by drones, and many more which were just imagination by sci-fi movies. 

How do we prepare leaders for the future? A leader has to master science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -STEM. These skills can successfully lead the future leader into the fourth industrial revolution with guns blazing.

Soft skills will become the top skills of leaders.

Artificial intelligence has a boundary. Even if science evolves and AI enables fantastic things, it cannot replace humans. Humans are endowed with creativity, empathy, kindness, and intuition. These are the 'extra-quotient' skills that make leaders unique. Leadership is about leading different people to achieve a common shared goal. This will involve conflicts, collaboration, inspiration, and several 'human' things that cannot be done by machines in a long time. 

Leaders need to be futurists

Futurists are people who are on top of trends. They look at today's trends and project them into the future to prepare organizations to cruise in without roadblocks. They believe in a trans-disciplinary approach and are often motivated by change. 

Leaders should learn to solve problems with non-binary thinking

Generally, developing minds think in a binary fashion. It is “either-or not” for this mindset. Teenagers are typically pegged in this mindset. They either like something or dislike it. There is no in-between. But future leaders need to have mindsets with directional thinking or lateral thinking to make decisions and solve problems. They need to use creativity to overcome challenges in decision making which can throw new perspectives and solutions for a positive change. 

Future leaders should be digital natives

It took thousands of years for mankind to invent the telephone. It took 150 years to invent the mobile phone and 10 years to make it smart and connected to the internet. They control our lives and many livelihoods today. 

The leaders walking into the future may not be born-digital but have to adopt technology as digital natives. They have to have the curiosity of children to learn and soak up the technology environment. The next decade will see technology advancing in leaps and bounds. Everyday life will be designed with and around technology. Leaders need to embrace digital transformation and take advantage of smart machines.

Disruption will be the new normal

Effective leaders of the future will have a game on the new playbook. They need to shed some of the legacy skillsets and traits and embrace many new ones. As we enter the digital age aggressively, we are yet motivated by some enduring and time-tested leadership traits and behaviors like ethics, trust, integrity, empathy, and kindness. But the new emerging skillset frameworks are built on foundations of biotechnology and robotics. Leadership will require flexibility to work with multi-generational workforces. They need to be able to work in chaos and constant change. Agility will be a requirement to combat disruptions. 

Leaders must be global citizens

Globalization is not anymore, an idea. A leader should be ready to work across geographies with different cultures. They need to embrace diversity and be sensitive to cultural history. The prediction for the future workplaces will be avatars, translation software, and remote work cultures. 

Virtual leadership

It will be no longer possible to have teams physically present in a workplace to direct, motivate, and lead. The future will be the gig economy. The leader will manage remote teams from various locations. The future of work will have some functions working from home. 

Leading people into the next decade will be an exciting challenge, especially in the services industry. Man and machine will fight for prominence. Leaders need two sides to their leadership – the technology quotient and the emotional quotient. This will be the 'Extra Quotient' in the future.

About the Author

Vikram Cotah is the Chief Operating Officer of GRT Hotels and Resorts. He is writing a book on leadership "Mojo in a Mango Tree" with hospitality lessons culled from his rich experience to help the new age leaders.