I learnt the other day that the internet was only invented (created/developed?) in 1993. In 1997 Netscape was our browser of choice; the Motorola StarTac was our popular mobile phone and cordless phones in homes started to emerge. This made me consider how much the world has changed in the last 25 years.

My daughter finds it hard to believe that I didn’t have a mobile phone when I was young; Google didn’t exist – instead I had to read books to find information; and phones use to be attached to the wall in our hallways. We don’t know what the future will bring, but it’s a fair chance it’ll involve even more change – change that will flow into the workplace too.

A new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has suggested that far fewer workers are at risk of being replaced by automaton than previously thought. The research found that most jobs will be difficult to automate because they require creativity, complex reasoning, ability to carry out physical tasks in an unstructured work environment or the ability to negotiate complex relationships. Surely that’s good news for us humans? Our “human type” skills will still be needed?

However, the OECD also said that a large number of workers could find their jobs significantly changing in the coming years and specifically flagged up that young people could find it harder to find work in the future as entry-level roles were at a higher risk of being automated than those requiring more experience.

So what’s the impact of this for Leadership and Talent Development? What skills should we be developing in our leaders for then to thrive in the future?

Here’s my take on what a Leader will need to be able to do in the future:

  • Lead others through change and help make change the norm. Let’s call that evolution instead of change?
  • Navigate comfortably more complex relationships – customer as well as worker relationships – and I deliberately use “worker” rather than “employee”
  • Operate in ambiguous situations – the future is not predictable, we won’t have all the information we’d like – live with that fact and move on!
  • Embrace diverse opinions – Traditional answers to emerging issues probably won’t work anymore
  • Talent developer – by this I mean, have the ability to help everyone do their best job possible.


These are outputs – the stuff Leaders need to be able to do. So what could the future Leadership traits look like? Here’s my take on this too!

  • Resilience– Pick yourself up and bounce back from set backs
  • Emotionally Intelligent – knowing yourself, knowing others and knowing how to get the most out of your relationships
  • Addicted to learning – be able to unlearn and relearn with ease and comfort.
  • Be Human – the hardest one to find a decent name for, it’s the recognition that people are human beings and should be treated like that


The good news is that we all possess these characteristics in some shape or form. I think the most successful leaders will be able to sharpen those skills and enjoy using them. If the First Industrial Revolution made us more efficient and productive, the Fourth Industrial Revolution needs to see us embrace our human qualities and find enjoyment and meaning in our work!