The Drucker Foundation in 1996 asked leadership experts and proven leaders in the private sector to contribute to a leadership compendium, the proceeds of which would be donated to charity. The theme is clear from the title: what will the leader of the future look like, and what skills will he or she need? Over 30 authors answered the call and together provide a surprisingly consistent - if occasionally contradictory - view of tomorrow's organizations and their leadership needs.
The benefit of this approach is that it forces the authors to cut to the chase. Far too many leadership/management books waste space with folksy anecdotes and maddening metaphors. These are, thankfully, generally absent from The Leader of the Future, leaving almost 300 pages of substance for the reader. Another plus is the reader's ability to find new leadership authors that appeal to him or her that might otherwise have gone overlooked.
According to these experts, the business world is changing at a pace not seen in generations. (This refrain, I admit, gets old rather quickly and makes the experts seem like leaders of the past at points.) In order for organizations to survive and thrive, they need a new type of leadership. Today, CEOs and heads of organizations are the leaders. Tomorrow, they argue, CEOs will need a new set of skills, and anyone at any level in the organization will be called on to lead. Globalization, technology, mobile jobs, and an unprecedented amount of information mean that no one person can be "the" decisionmaker. Instead, organizations need to behave like market-economy nation-states: they need to be less hierarchical, allow internal competition, give their employees more decisionmaking authority, and train their employees to make informed decisions.
The idea of training is key - virtually all of the authors agree that leaders are made, not born. At the same time, they argue that all leaders have certain qualities, including high energy, vision, and other qualities that are hard to teach. Perhaps this is why one chapter focuses on the underanalyzed quality of followership. Certain segments are broad and theoretical, others offer concrete proposals to develop leaders of the future.
What does all of this mean for the average reader? Many organizations are still hierarchical with strict rules and regulations. There is, one could argue, only so far we can go towards decentralizing, flattening and empowering. But that would be yesterday's way of thinking. The leader of the future will find ways to work within these constraints, will have a vision of the organization that will guide him or her, and will allow for the empowerment of subordinates. This somewhat populist view of the leader of the future will at a minimum provoke the reader to consider what kind of leader he or she is and whether he or she is prepared to be a leader of the future.
The Leader of the Future is one of the few books on leadership that is worth buying. Borrow it or buy it, but read it today to be prepared for tomorrow.