Insight: The dynamic leadership skills required for the future

By David Preston, MD Canon South Africa

leadership skills
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Tradition and innovation, almost any business leader out there will agree, are both fundamental assets and leadership skills for any business. Many tried-and-trusted approaches can be relied upon again and again to deliver results, while in other cases, thinking one step ahead of the competition and coming up with something new could be another business’s shot at success. Any longstanding business that is successful today understands the delicate balance necessary to continue to grow and thrive; and that the collision of tradition and innovation is inevitable in every generation. It is being able to navigate this collision productively that will make all the difference.

Tomorrow’s leaders have their work cut out for them and will face very different challenges to anything the leaders of today could imagine. The workforces that will be the lifeblood of our organisations in the coming decades – the Millennial generation and Generation Z following close behind, are being asked to take up leadership roles in a time of unprecedented change, and their success or failure will depend on an entirely new way of thinking about leadership and their own skill sets.

  • Soft skills

Soft skills and emotional intelligence are proving more and more to be a key factor in the workplace of the future. In a business world that moves as unpredictably as today’s, the “way things have always been done” in terms of leadership is no longer the best way to do them. Collaboration is key, and so good relationships are vital. Work-life balance, mental health awareness, and more will all come to represent the kind of companies that attract top leadership in the future.

  • Analytical thinking and fact-based decision-making
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We live in a world of data, where understanding the insights behind the numbers has to validate any executive’s best gut instinct. Data should be behind every move a business makes, and it should enable that move to be made in record time. Inaction is no longer a viable business model. In a shifting and increasingly competitive market, big decisions need to be made quickly and confidently.

  • A strong awareness of the changing nature of communication

There are changes coming in the next few years that will rival the birth of the internet and every trend opens up new possibilities in new markets. The world needs organisational leaders who are representative of, and sensitive to, the desires of different customer segments, and are able to apply a nuanced approach when attempting to capture their interest.

  • The ability to think strategically

Only adding to the challenge of being on the ball with every new trend, is the ability to set them aside and consider the big strategic picture; not the one-year plan, but the five, 10, or 15-year plan. Trends come and go, but the bigger picture and a clear strategic view can always be relied upon to provide guidance when important decisions need to be made.

  • Dynamic people are the best fit for dynamic positions

Candidates with cutting-edge skills are fantastic. In fact, maintaining an upskilled workforce is essential. But skills can be learned, and long-term success relies on so much more. Far more reliable a predictor of success is to hire based on personality type as well as skills. We look for analytical personalities that will bring fresh perspectives to the organisation, but who are also committed to continuity of purpose and effective knowledge-transfer.

David Preston, MD Canon South Africa
David Preston, MD Canon South Africa

For example, today our leaders here at Canon are driven by a desire to understand the consumer inside and out. Our offering needs to appeal to people who use our technology to capture moments and events that are personally important to them, and therein lies our purpose as a business. We delve deeply into the lives of our consumers. We have studied the relationship between Instagram and food photography. We strive to understand the life of the wedding photographer, the wildlife photographer, the portrait artist and the journalist. Our approach toward the market can no longer be based on the size of our lenses or the number of megapixels we can offer – it must be based on an insightful, data-led understanding of the world that our customers inhabit.

These leadership skills in any organisation will give a business at least a fighting chance of being around a decade from now.


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