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How we judge leaders is changing. Although it sometimes seems as if we are lowering the bar, we won’t be doing that in the future. I often go to my sports class with a t-shirt that says ‘Don’t make stupid people famous.’ Yet this is something that we often do. However, now we are shifting away from an economic-driven society where negative impact on others or Mother Earth never counted. Decades ago in the Netherlands, it was quite okay to drive while you had had a few alcoholic drinks under your belt (3 or more were no exception). This is completely unacceptable nowadays. The same is happening with leadership. Whereas you might think that ruthless leaders are still appreciated and even admired today, this is nevertheless changing now.

Leaders with the following characteristics will not only be appreciated in 2030, they will define and lead us toward a more integrated business approach.

Admired leaders of the future

  • Are rich because of what they have achieved and are focussed on creating positive impact through their leadership. While leaders like Jeff Bezos (CEO Amazon, who pays staff less than a living wage) and Travis Cordell Kalanick (ex UBER CEO who yells at people and is sexist) are being admired at present, that is definitely set to change. We will hold leaders accountable for their impact on others and the world around them.
  • Have continuously supported a lot of notable projects that contribute to a better world, like these. Although Bill Gates comes across as a little suspect to some when it comes to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation and their real intentions, we will be used to this kind of philanthropy more in the future and therefore we will probably appreciate it more.
  • Are very competent in one specific area. No doubt that they have nailed their niche (market / science area / customer segment) and of course, they add to that skill, affinity as well as technology.
  • Stand out because of their authenticity, and they make us laugh and feel connected. They appreciate the views of others, their authenticity is as important as those of others. Inclusivity is not a theme, it’s who they are.
  • Have connections across all layers of the population and keep those relationships healthy. They have good friends who keep their vanity on a level par with a good dose of humor.
  • Are warm. They can be very strict when making decisions, but will always be respectful and generous in their relationships.
  • Are strong and determined, and at the same time, are able to show their human and vulnerable side when the going gets tough.
  • Keep their promises.
  • Have a winner’s mentality but not at the expense of other considerations.
  • Last but not least, they know how to tell a story. Storytelling is not easy, being able to connect with an audience and deliver your message is a skill. Admired leaders of the future invest in this skill.

A little bit of wishful thinking

Is this the outcome of research on leadership? It sure is, although I admit I added a little bit of wishful thinking. Because aren’t we ourselves the ones who determine what we will appreciate? I have a framed poster in my kitchen with the saying: “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” This wishful thinking is rooted in knowing that I hope we will seize our power to admire and follow those leaders who have an inclusive, strong and appreciative spirit that focuses on impact and profit. Who wouldn’t want them to be our leaders?

All the characteristics mentioned above can be trained. Future leaders could work on the traits that they need and shape the world by being the finest inclusive leaders out there. Go for it!

About this column

In a weekly column, written alternately by Wendy van Ierschot, Eveline van Zeeland, Eugène Franken, Jan Wouters, Katleen Gabriels, Bert Overlack, Mary Fiers and Hans Helsloot, Innovation Origins tries to figure out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally joined by guest bloggers, are all working in their own way on solutions to the problems of our time. So that tomorrow is good. Here are all the previous articles.