Leading tomorrow’s world

In the first of this two part feature, global recruiter Michael Page and trend predictors Foresight Factory highlight changes in leadership for the future.

In the first of a two-part series, global recruiter Michael Page and trend predictors Foresight Factory examine what leadership looks like in tomorrow’s world – assessing the impact of a number of today’s growing trends from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to mental health and wellness in the workplace.  

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It’s no secret that the ability to spot and nurture leadership is key to business success. But, with rapid technological developments, evolving customer needs, and changing attitudes towards work-life balance driving a radical transformation of the ‘leadership’ we know today, are companies equipped to identify what leadership looks tomorrow?

Future force 1: the rise of the robots

Where are we now?
The Fourth Industrial Revolution – in which we find ourselves – will continue to bring change at an unprecedented speed and scale. The impact of previous waves of mass-mechanisation was more concentrated to specific industries and social groups; the level of automation facing us today promises to have a much wider impact across sectors, and both white and blue collar jobs.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond
The next decade and beyond will see robotisation reduce the number of jobs available to a human workforce. In an increasingly competitive and volatile job market, employees will have to continuously update their skill sets to stay relevant, with new skills being flexibly learnt, upgraded and discarded as necessary.

What does this mean for future leadership?
The crucial question will become how business leaders will avoid widespread redundancies, low productivity and inequality? The answer is by taking incremental action to support staff in regularly updating their skill sets through continuous training opportunities, and providing flexible career options within their organisation.

Leadership styles will also have to adapt to successfully combine a human/robot workforce – finding a way to not only juggle, but effectively exploit, the benefits of this human/machine intelligence combination.

Future force 2: mind matters

Where are we now?
Constant connectivity is resulting in a night-time colonised by work tasks and disruption of the conventional 9 to 5. Almost a third of UK workers and 50 per cent of millennials, for example, currently claim to use their mobile devices to complete work tasks at home1.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond
As connectivity becomes unending, today’s oft-sought work-life balance will soon become outmoded, with full work-life integration becoming the dominant model. With the demands of a fast-paced and constantly connected labour market becoming even greater as a result, workforce health will come under increasing scrutiny.

What does this mean for future leadership?
Leaders will need to be aware of and adjust to the potential psychological pressures associated with constant work-based connectivity, both as individuals and as an example for their employees. Leaders will also be expected to be more emotionally sensitive and prioritise mental health, while exhibiting extensive emotional control and mental optimisation. As these pressures continue to mount, we expect this balancing act to be an intensifying priority for future leaders.

Future force 3: leadership live

Where are we now?
It is increasingly expected that leaders lead within an organisation and outside of it, through the medium of their online leadership brand – collecting an engaged community of followers whom they lead but don’t employ. To these people they play the role of thought leader, influencer and inspirer.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond
Social media sites have provided a leadership platform to increase visibility both inside and outside of organisations. They are already evolving to be more authentic and real-time through functionality such as Instagram Stories and Facebook Live and with immersive technologies like augmented, virtual reality developing rapidly, our demand for authentic interaction with those we admire will intensify accordingly.

What does this mean for future leadership?
Leaders will have to adapt to a more authentic approach to online image management to meet follower demand. There will be growing need for a more casual style of leadership, where interactions have to be (or at least, appear) unscripted and genuine. Leadership in this context will diversify as this micro-influence grows in prominence. Leaders should isolate the highly specific niche within which they can lead, and build a community around this specific interest.

Future force 4: entrepreneurial endeavour

Where are we now?
Creativity, innovative problem-solving, and entrepreneurial spirit are all assigned high levels of social capital in today’s corporate world. ‘Start-up’ culture, with its emphasis on experimentation and pivots, is beginning to permeate the corporate mainstream in aspiration as well as action: 22 per cent of British respondents to a Foresight Factory survey and 35 per cent of millennials expect to start a business in the future2.

At the same time however, the relative financial uncertainty seen over the past decade is driving a culture of risk aversion amongst both employers and employees. We might aspire to be entrepreneurial, but continue to seek the security of a monthly pay check.

Looking to the future: 2020 and beyond
Amongst bigger corporations we expect to see a growing culture of intra-preneurialism flourish. Corporations will support their employees in entrepreneurial activities, providing them with the time, space and independence required to develop creative endeavours. We will begin to see an increasing number of ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ job titles or initiatives, where time is set aside for people to pursue their own projects.

What does this mean for future leadership?
Leadership styles must evolve to manage a more creative and independent workforce. This will have structural and operational implications, as leaders grapple with a growth in the number of employees who will seek leadership in the non-traditional sense. Supporting a culture of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity will require flexibility and aspirational guidance over structural leadership.


The world is rapidly changing and these are by no means the only trends which will impact leadership. The important thing is to keep an eye on the future and get ahead of such trends to guarantee ongoing business success.

Stay tuned for part two of this series where we’ll take a closer look at internal challenges like succession planning, or lack of, and the external powers at play (such as Brexit). We’ll also be discussing the difference between management and leadership, and what both will look like in 2020 and beyond.

For a more in-depth look at these trends, read The Future of Leadership: Robots, remote working and real-time reactions report in full: http://pagegroup-future-of-leadership.com


1.    FF Online Research, Base: 5005 online respondents aged 16+, GB 2015 February
2.    FF Online Research, Base: 5005 online respondents aged 16+, GB 2016 February


Find out more about the research at Foresight Factory and Michael Page

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