Leadership trends

The Fourth Industrial Revolution demanded that CEOs take responsibility for the massive transformation of their businesses and for the astonishing impact that this transformation will have on the wider society and all the stakeholders. Success requires CEOs to develop the right leadership capabilities, workforce skills, and corporate cultures to support digital transformation and become agile to face the many uncertainties. A revolution in skills and a transformation of organizations is highly needed to sustain one’s presence in the marketplace.

According to blessingwhite.com, those who take into account individual values and personal differences while creating an environment of shared responsibility create a place where individuals enjoy work more and become more productive. Hence, the leadership trends that support transformation in the market and the economy are the following:

  • Coach and be ready to be coached: employees rely on the support of their companies to take on business challenges. Empowering employees makes them more innovative and intrapreneurial in addition to increasing their sense of belonging to the company. Empowerment should be preceded by delegation of authority.

Coaching should be purposeful and focused to enhance productivity. Being ready to be coached is rooted in the concept of being a lifelong learner to keep pace with the new trends of one’s profession. Leaders who seek and are open to feedback will be better positioned to gain the commitment and enthusiasm of the employees they lead.

  • Realize it is a millennial and Generation Z world: millennials make up 50% of the workforce. According to the data obtained from the LinkedIn survey, the number one reason millennials change jobs is to advance their career, followed by compensation and the desire for more challenging work and roles that are a better fit for their skills and interests. Research shows that millennials want to be challenged and are willing to work hard. They are positive, creative, optimistic and forward-looking. At the same time, they come with some pretty strong ideas about work/life balance, company values, and career expectations.

They are also a generation for whom a remote work environment and wearable technology are the norm. Leaders have to adopt a collaborative mindset to get the commitment of millennials and Generation Z cohorts. This generation is personally driven to seek education and professional development to increase employment opportunities in a world economy hit by many crises.

  • Create and leverage on a diverse work environment: Inclusive leadership must become part of the DNA of an organization. This kind of leadership surpasses tolerance and acceptance of others’ differences; it is about creating an inclusive workplace where employees representing all dimensions of diversity can thrive. Catalyst’s research identifies four core skills of inclusive leaders known as “EACH Mindset”.

EACH stands for:

a. Empowerment

b. Accountability

c. Courage

d. Humility Organizations like Catalyst have been able to demonstrate that there is an increased return on equity for businesses with more women and minorities in their executive levels. In addition, the research also shows that the more included employees feel, the more innovative and productive they are.

  • Vertical development, ownership development, and collective development: Vertical development refers to the advancement in a person’s thinking capacities. The outcome of vertical stage development is the ability to think in more complex, systemic, strategic, and interdependent ways. This comes in contrary to horizontal development, which is the development of new skills, abilities, and behaviors.

Horizontal development is most useful when a problem is clearly defined and there are known techniques for solving it. Due to the uncertainties controlling the business environment, vertical development has gained more momentum.

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Ownership development: People develop fastest when they feel responsible for their progress and are involved in decision making and planning regardless of their position in the hierarchical structure of the company.

Collective Leadership: According to Simmons & Weinrich “[g]aining everyone’s participation is essential to a team’s success. Without an individual’s participation, the unique skills, talents, experience, and knowledge he/she brings to the team will be wasted.”

Factors Contributing to Better Collective Leadership

  • Open flows of information
  • More flexible and flatter hierarchies
  • Distributed resources
  • Distributed decision-making
  • Less centralization and control

Distributed leadership:

Distributed leadership can be considered to include shared, democratic, dispersed, and other related forms of leadership. It is a leadership style where leaders can emerge and exercise the power of knowledge wherever they are in the organizational chart. There are three premises of distributed leadership:

  1. Leadership is an emergent property of a group or network of interacting individuals
  2. There is an openness to the boundaries of leadership
  3. Varieties of expertise are distributed across the different levels of the organizational chart. Leaders might emerge based on the need of their expertise and how such expertise might be of impact

With the change in the pace of work, the impact of ever-changing technology, shifting demographics, increased environmental ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, being a leader is more challenging than ever before. Good leaders understand these trends and equip themselves with the skills required to embrace them. Effective leaders are characterized by being visionaries, a trait that leads to seizing opportunities and developing products and services to satisfy needs and wants not attended to by competitors. Leaders contribute to the competitive advantage sought by their corporations.

The environment and context of leadership have changed, becoming more multifaceted, unstable, and unpredictable. Because of these changing trends, a leader’s skills are more demanding in the sense of having more complex, adaptive thinking abilities and being vertically developed. With the new form of economy and the advent of information technology, more individuals now have the chance to show and exercise their leadership abilities to reach higher positions in the organizational chart or start their entrepreneurial ventures.

Leadership in times of crisis

The 17th of October marked a new era for Lebanon. The revolution which aimed at combating the unprecedented level of corruption had a very high cost. The level of uncertainty and volatility being witnessed since then has left its repercussions on the economic and financial level in a way that Lebanon hasn’t experienced during the civil war, post the assassination of late prime minister Hariri or even after July war 2006. Businesses are catastrophically suffering and the whole economy is in crisis. Classical leadership models won’t serve well in such critical times. Being Agile is not an option. Yet not all business leaders have what is required to be agile and to adopt the trendiest leadership models. Lebanon over the past 3 months has become a unique case study which demonstrates how leadership should be exercised during times of crisis.

Around 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, said, “The only constant in life is change.” Back then, Heraclitus was not able to refresh his Twitter or Facebook account to see that what was trending a minute ago would disappear from his timeline in few seconds.  In that era, the world was not disrupted by this many uncertainties, ambiguities, or complexities. The world was not interconnected as much, and consumers were not spoiled to the extent of updating their needs, wants, demands, desires, tastes, and preferences every so often. Despite all this, Heraclitus had the gall to talk about change!

With these new factors shaping our world, change has gained more momentum than ever before, which requires a kind of leadership responsive or adaptive to this change. Being a manager does not suffice; being a leader is indispensable. It is worth mentioning that even the leadership style that used to be trendy years ago has become obsolete in our new world of business.

Leadership in Action: Complexity

  • According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, organizations are launching more major change initiatives than ever before: three to five per year, on average.
  • The Corporate Executive Board reports that globally, half of employees expect a major change in six months.
  • IBM’s Global Chief Executive Officer Study shows that 79% of CEOs say that the level of uncertainty and complexity will get even higher; less than half say they are prepared to manage it.
  • Forum Global survey of 700 leaders shows that 72% of them report high or extremely high increases in uncertainty within their companies.
  • Forum VOC research indicates that twice as many business leaders say that “the ability to lead change” is a top business challenge as compared with 2010.

Triggers for New Forms of Leadership

  • The skills needed for leadership have changed—more complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed.
  • The majority of managers have developed by virtue of on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching/ mentoring; while these factors are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new uncertain environment. A global mindset is required to lead.
  • Companies are facing a development challenge, which is the process of growing “bigger” minds and developing more agility in dealing with problems.
  • The environment has changed—it is more complex, volatile, and unpredictable. In a study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, the environment in which leaders must work is characterized by the acronym VUCA. The letters stand for:
  • Volatile: Change happens rapidly and on a large scale
  • Uncertain: The future cannot be predicted with any precision
  • Complex: Challenges are complicated by many factors and there are a few single causes or solutions
  • Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have

Challenges for Future Leaders

  • Information overload due to complexity and the amount of factors that have an impact on businesses
  • The interconnectedness of systems and business communities
  • The dissolution of traditional organizational boundaries
  • New technologies that disrupt old work practices
  • The different values and expectations of new generations entering the workplace
  • Increased globalization, leading to the need for cross cultural leadership

Skills Required for Future Leaders

  • Reflecting the changes in the environment, especially since the competencies that will be most valuable to future leaders appear to be changing
  • Adaptability/agility
  • Self-awareness
  • Being culturally savvy
  • Constant learning and development
  • Collaboration 
  • Network thinking

Power and Leadership

Power is the ability to get someone to do something he or she would not do otherwise. Having an impact on the behaviors of employees to direct their efforts toward achieving a common goal or a shared vision is what leaders usually aim at. The form of power utilized defines whether the company and employees are being led or managed. In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power has been divided into five separate and distinct forms:

  1. Coercive: uses the threat of force to gain compliance
  2. Reward: uses the right of some to offer or deny tangible, social, emotional, or spiritual rewards for others for doing what is wanted or expected of them
  3. Legitimate: uses the authority one has based on his or her position
  4. Referent: is rooted in the belonging one might have to a certain group, while sharing its values and beliefs to a certain extent
  5.  Expert: uses on one’s knowledge, experience, and special skills or talents. Expertise can be demonstrated by reputation, credentials certifying expertise, and actions

With the advent of information technology and knowledge economy, a new form of power gained momentum. Information power comes as a result of possessing knowledge that others need or want. Information can lead to a certain influence, impact decision making, establish credibility, and being in control. Providing rational arguments, using information to persuade others, and using facts and manipulating information can create a power base. The particularity of this form of power is that it is not linked to a position in the organizational chart. Any employee who possesses information that is needed to achieve the organizational goals is powerful. This leads us to a new form of leadership, which is distributed leadership.

When a person suffices oneself with coercive, reward, and legitimate power, one exercises a kind of managerial ability to run the business. However, when power evolves into the expert or informational kind, leadership starts to become more apparent.

Peter Drucker says, “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” Leadership can be perceived as a process of social influence that maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of organizational goals.

Marketing trends shaping customer experience in 2020: what you need to know

Customers have developed voracious appetites for new content. To be visually appealing and to stand out, new content has to be updated in terms of its features, packaging, presence on convenient distribution channels, and digital media friendliness. If these conditions are not favorable, the content occupies the bottom of the feed or even occupies less shelf space, and accordingly, a lower positioning in the customers’ perception. Fierce competition that leaves consumers with a plethora of choices creates a challenge for marketers who have found themselves in an endless race of creating a unique experience for customers to avoid jeopardizing their loyalty or lower their retention rate. Retaining existing customers or attracting new ones requires adopting different techniques that had not been prevalent before. These techniques in dealing with the new generational cohorts have become indispensable to sustain a company’s level of competition or market share.

Trends in Dealing with Customers

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Regardless of the industry in which a certain business is established, there are some new patterns of behavior that dictate the mode of operation. These patterns are focal for sustaining or developing an edge with respect to rivals.

Hence, businesses operating in this decade have to be concerned about the following:

1. Creating connections between customers:

While the economy of the last millennium was based on building assets by industrialism, the current economy rewards value created by building relationships and creating connections. The most valuable companies will connect buyer to seller, or consumer to content. For instance, Uber is the largest “taxi” company–yet they own no vehicles but still excel at connecting riders with drivers; and Facebook is the largest media company–yet they create no content, among many other examples of leading companies.

2. Customer experience:

The unprecedented bargaining power, which customers have acquired, has driven companies to compete based on providing their customers with a unique experience. Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are urged to develop bleeding edge technologies to enhance customers’ experiences. Marketers and other key managers capitalize on Big Data and other analytical tools to make decisions and formulate strategies for that purpose.

Every smart phone adopted by one of the two billion smart phone holders is an opportunity for marketers to connect with a new client and create a unique experience, foster better customer loyalty and improved long-term engagement. Leveraging on the data required to fuel the outreach and building solid relationships founded on trust come as a replacement to mass targeting.

3. Developing human to human relationships

Companies are trying to appeal to the emotional side of customers in their marketing efforts. Striving for story-driven communication that is personal, conversational, empathetic, inspirational, and humorous arouses the interest of customers in a certain brand and creates more loyalty.

Digital Trends in Dealing with Customers

Being visible on the busy shelves and overcrowded newsfeed is a challenge that businesses confront in appealing to their customers. Customers have adopted some preferences in digesting information, which requires marketers to adopt technologies that serve that purpose. Sujan Patel, contributor to entrepreneur.com, says that the following trends can be leveraged on to enhance the appeal of the product and speak the language of consumers.

1. Virtual reality:

Virtual reality has come a long way since the concepts and products released in the 1990s and since the realities of today were believed to be mere science fiction. Technology like the Oculus Rift, which was bought out by Facebook to the tune of $2 billion, had a big impact on the way companies engage individual consumers.

Companies are now exploring improved control methods, this is why Facebook introduced hand tracking interactions are more seamless than using one’s own hands. Facebook will even be investigating brain interfaces in 2020! Virtual tours, one-on-one engagement, interactive and immersive commercials, enjoying a courtside seat at a game, or consulting with a doctor face-to-face are just a few ways marketing will likely shift in the near future through the use of virtual reality.

2. A new age of search

For years, consumers have been accustomed to the search engines of Google, Yahoo!, And Bing, which dominate the search market respectively. Facebook is currently adopting continued advancements to become a major player in this market. By expanding its search functionality, Facebook is able to tie in other components, which include call-to action buttons and payment messaging. This is accompanied by the ability to join groups and social discussions all in one platform that allows brands to create real digital experiences. Automation in 2020 will be more than a matter of convenience it will be an edge. Google is expected to earn $55.51B in ad revenues this year. This highly effective tools helps with everyday campaign optimizations, reporting, and tracking. Another search trend according to ComScore, is voice search. 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.

This changes the way that people search and what type of terms or phrases they use to find information. Finally, one should not forget visual search such as Google Lens released in 2017 by Google or the Microsoft visual search tool. This allows users to search the web using their camera. In fact, 62% of Millennials express the desire to search visually, more so than any other new technology.

3. Stepping away from evergreen to creating more spontaneity

Brands used to develop evergreen content, or content that can remain viral for an extended period of time. Starting 2016, we have been witnessing a growing trend in sharing content in real time, especially with the growth of Snapchat, Periscope, the moments of Instagram, and the live option of Facebook, among other tools. Hence, the trend calls for simple, brief, and timely content.

4. Location-based marketing growth

Despite having been experimenting with location-based push marketing for a few years, retailers and brands did not get the sought support from major phone manufacturers. To create an interactive experience, brands and retailers target the user directly at or near the point of engagement. Using Bluetooth technology, you can send push notifications to nearby devices, attracting the attention of your target audience to retail locations, a tradeshow, or a nearby restaurant, among other locations. “Applications go beyond retail or location-based marketing. For instance, SK Telecom and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital are using Bluetooth Smart Beacons to provide round-the-clock patient information and navigation to 6,000 daily patients,” Patel says.

In addition, using this method of mobile targeting, brands can target relevant audiences with ads based on demographics and other data points. These are consumers who are most likely to fit their ideal customer profile. The most popular location marketing is mobile geolocation marketing including Mobile Audience Targeting and Real-Time Location Targeting such as geofencing and beaconing. In a report by Factual, almost 9 in 10 marketers said location-based advertising and marketing resulted in higher sales, followed by growth in their customer base (86%) and higher customer engagement (84%).

5. New forms of payment

NFC compatibility (Near Field Communication), Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Tap-and-go are some of the payment modes which started gaining momentum and will shape the payment modes of the upcoming decades. Bank cards now feature NFC technology to make payment become contactless. the process of authorizing transactions with a signature has become virtually obsolete. Banks also removed the signature requirement from credit card transactions, making advancements in payment security technology, such as EMV, tokenization, and artificial intelligence (AI) for payment data monitoring.

Another form of payment is related to Biometric authentication where consumers use their fingerprints to unlock their smartphones, authorizing mobile banking transactions and making mobile payments. Payment processes are some seamless thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) technology.  Shoppers can now select their purchases, walk out of the store and receive a receipt on an app or via email or text. In addition to this, it is important to note that payment security is still a top priority.

Trends in Communication

The quality of a certain product or service means nothing unless it is properly unveiled to the public. Keeping the updates of a certain brand or its competitive advantage within the realm of companies alone jeopardizes this brand’s positioning and share in the market. Bad communication would have a disastrous impact on the perception of this brand by consumers. Hence, there are current communication trends that brands have to follow to properly reveal the intended image to the target audience.

1. Real time content creation and scarcity of time:

The notion of time has gained more importance in the world of business as the competitive cycles kept getting ever fiercer, with complexity on the rise. When talking about scarcity of resources in economics, time has become an integral resource in addition to land, labor, and capital.

The elimination of activities and strategies that waste a client’s time has the potential to become a competitive advantage. Real time and relevant consumption of updated content meet the customers’ expectations. Snapchat and the communication dynamic it creates is a representative example.

2. User generated content (UGC):

User generated content (UGC) has become an important communication and marketing activity. Customers and other stakeholders are participating heavily in some of the brand-building activities. Customers trust peer recommendations more than a company’s sales messaging; hence, companies are adding features on their websites to facilitate users sharing comments or running competitions to engage audiences.

3. Brands are developing a sense of citizenship:

Companies are assuming a role in brand activism on issues related to sustainability, especially in matters related to environmental and social factors. 2015 was a significant year in terms of advancing the global sustainable development agenda following the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement.

4. Brands are developing a personable approach:

Corporate communicators are loosening up a bit and showing their more authentic and realistic side. Live social media chats with company leaders help in showing a more personable approach to communications.

It is not weird to check into a certain restaurant or mall and get greeted by the brand itself afterward or have your name mentioned by the brand in a reply to a comment you have written about the extent of satisfaction after a dining experience or using a certain product.

5. A shift from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Customer Managed Relationships (CMR):

According to Markus Kramer of brandsaffairs.com, CRM has become a cold, dry and rigid (transactional) science. He adds that for good practice on how relationshipmarketing works well with a very consistent and high degree of integrity and a real humanistic approach to the “relationship” aspects, one ought to take a look at the high-end luxury sector. Brands such as Aston Martin or Patek Philippe are mastering the process of genuinely bonding with customers. So are Apple and Harley-Davidson.

Marketers are asked to re-think relationship marketing. CRM is becoming a model of the past, CMR (Customer Managed Relationships) is the new paradigm. Brands must rework their segmentation models and the way they interact and communicate with their customers accordingly; they need to start the journey with the customers and not the other way around.

6. Purpose, real values and humanizing: Branding inside out:

According to Ernst and Young, appearance alone is superficial and will increasingly be recognized as such. Purpose driven brands are becoming increasingly able to demonstrate higher returns, more loyalty, and repeated business. Brands are embracing the concept of CSR and even looking beyond it. So both the outside and the inside of brands will need to be meaningful and led by shared and aligned purposes. Forward-thinking brands that add meaning to their customers’ lives will occupy more space in their consumers’ minds. Millennials and Gen Z cohorts find this approach of doing business more meaningful. Developing user-friendly interfaces has become even more important starting 2016. This can be referred to as humanizing.

Humanizing is about smarter cities, reducing complexity, innovation, and technological tools adapted to humans rather than the other way around. On the brand and product side, Apple and Bang & Olufsen are among the leaders of the humanization agenda. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for simple, beautiful, and reliable products. Brands, according to Kramer, should keep on improving what they have innovated until it is also fully humanized.