In a digital world where disruption is the name of the game, everything is done at speed, we are guided by the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence dominates the headlines it seems counter-intuitive that leadership styles are becoming somewhat more human.
These days people are quick to lament about the changing workforce, how certain jobs will simply become redundant as they will be replaced by robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI). This creates fear and uncertainty for many, but it is no different to the first industrial revolution when machines started to ‘replace’ the labour forces.
Depending on whether you’re a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person you can choose to see the massive advances in technology as a disaster or as an opportunity and we certainly opt for the latter.
Just as the first industrial revolution created new jobs and opportunities, so will this ‘fourth industrial revolution’, so why panic when there is so much to look forward to?
But wait, what are the second and third industrial revolutions? How did we get to four?
Here is a very quick overview, we recommend you read more about these major advancements online as there is so much more to them than the scope of this article.
In a nutshell – the four industrial revolutions:
If you’re reading this article, you know that the first industrial revolution began in Britain giving birth to the ‘factory’. This was a time in the late 1700s and early 1800s when machines emerged to automate tasks, more specifically in the textile industry. Water and Steam power were used to mechanize production.
The second industrial revolution sees that concept being taken one step further into the assembly line, most famously by Henry Ford, brining mass production to the fore and using electric power.
The third revolution comes in the form of digital disruption with a spotlight on 3D printing and using electronics and information technology to automate production.
We are now in the early stages of the fourth industrial revolution which, building on the third revolution, began with the emergence of the internet. This revolution combines the use of various technologies and blurs the boundaries between our virtual and physical worlds.
So why do these different phases of industry have an impact on leadership styles?
As the world and technology have progressed, so have the lifestyles of ordinary people progressed, but not as much as they have in the last century.
Work done by humans has moved further and further away from manual labour, to analytical thinkers who could manage complex calculations, develop code, and more. ‘Left brain thinkers were in the pound seat.
But as Daniel H. Pink puts it in his book “A Whole New Mind” “The future belongs to a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys”
“We are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computerlike capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathetic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age”
The new workforce, having a more creative approach demand a better workspace, more flexibility and a totally different type of leadership.
So, what are our leadership tips for the fourth industrial revolution?
- Be able to embrace the changes facing their organisations and help the rest of the organization to navigate change;
- now more than ever, be an inspiration to their staff who will be looking to them for guidance through these potentially turbulent times;
- be trustworthy and build their teams trust in the new technologies, data security and future possibilities;
- be sensitive to people’s fears in terms of job loss (or change);
- communicate and articulate not only the purpose of the company but also changes that are necessary for survival. Be transparent and upfront about all changes that staff can expect to see in the organization;
- Get used to a flatter (or in some cases non-existent) organizational structure. As competencies spread across different aspects of the organization and silos are broken down;
- Move away from controlling people into a space of understanding people and what motivates them;
- Provide employees with flexibility and mobility. Not only has technology provided ample opportunity for a highly collaborative disparate workforce, but the demand for an optimized work-life balance is demanding this change in the workplace.
In his book “What’s Your Moonshot?”, John Sanei says “Modern employees are hyper-sensitive to the culture that they work in, the leadership style that manages them and the extent to which an organisation’s values match their own”.
To this end, we at Symbiotics have been well ahead of the curve. We outlined our company values at the outset because we believed in them and not just because they were nice to have. These values drive everything we do, be it our interactions with customers, suppliers and colleagues, or our delivery of quality products and services.
Our values are also built into our entire recruitment program, which has proven extremely successful in ensuring we attract, and indeed hire, the right kind of people to be a part of our dynamic and growing team.
In addition, we have always believed in hiring for attitude and aptitude Soft skills before looking into the existing skillset.
In treating all staff with integrity, respect and care we are able to leave it up to each staff member when they need to be at the office and when they can get more out of working from home. The maturity of our staff means that this flexibility is appreciated and not abused.
Have something to add? Please drop us a comment below to share your thoughts about leadership in the new age.