How to develop future-fit leaders in Africa


We are seeing rapid technological changes in almost every sector, which means the business landscape is not only changing, but existing business practices are being challenged. There is an ever-growing need to relook established processes, the way business models currently work and how new competitors are engaged.

As disruptive change drivers in the corporate environment threaten the status quo it is becoming vital for every organisation to have leaders with the necessary skill set to navigate the uncharted waters ahead. Forward-thinking leaders that understand and embrace the intricacies of change and appreciate that outdated modes of learning and development are no longer relevant going into the future.

But what exactly makes a future-fit leader? There are a number of characteristics that play a major role in ultimately ensuring success:

Adopts adaptive intelligence

A 2002 study by Marine Biologists, Gunderson and Holling into the adaptability of coral reefs in the Pacific, brought about an understanding of the need for “adaptive intelligence.” Adaptive intelligence is the ability to deal with whatever situation your organisation faces using a four-pronged approach of:

  • Accepting change and variability,
  • Embracing the varied methods that one can get information and learn,
  • Understanding the need for diversity in order to develop greater empathy, and
  • Creating opportunities for self-organization and allowing others to self-lead.

With current advancements in technology moving faster than most humans can adapt and the business landscape in Africa always unpredictable, a future-fit leader understands the need for adaptive intelligence, to not only face the change but find methods for the organisation to embrace and engage it.

Is a contrarian at heart

According to Carey Smith, Chief at Big Ass Solutions, a company that has grown from $34 million to $226 million since 2009 and is on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, leaders (and employees) that will stand the test of time must be contrarian at heart. These are individuals that oppose any popular opinion and fiercely go against the grain by doing, thinking and behaving in unconventional ways as they tackle changes occurring across the social, technological, economic, and political trends. It is this kind of leader that will have the temerity to keep up with the “speed of innovation”.

Prioritises forward-thinking strategies

Today our business climes overly prioritise making money and the company’s bottom line, even more so when dealing with various stakeholders demanding positive fiscal results. However, a leader that understands the need to not only make money today but the sustained investment of resources in innovations that will result in future growth is ready for the future. For while prioritising this may not yield results now, it could be the very thing that manages to ensure sustained relevance and profitability in years to come.

Stays on the balcony

It is important for leaders to constantly look ahead and understand

  • where the disruption is coming from,
  • when the impact of the disruption will hit and,
  • what competitors are doing to address it.

Once that data is analysed and understood, it is vital to manage the process for the business to adapt and be ready for the disruption. This is impossible to do if one is spending too much time engaged in the inner workings or operational aspects of the business. In their book, ‘The Practise of Adaptive Leadership’ (Harvard Press), Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow & Marty Linsky give the analogy of getting off the dance floor and getting onto the balcony – for it is there where you can get a clear view of the future and the potential economic or political challenges – enabling you to be proactive and not reactive in dealing with it.

Is Inclusive

Through nurture and at times nature, each and every person sees the world through a specific set of lens or bias. Depending on what filters through our lenses, we engage the world in a certain way. With the world getting “smaller” due to globalization and technology, a future-fit leader understands need to embrace the other and build a culture that not only accepts but celebrates diversity as a way to show a willingness to grow into the future.

 At Factor10 we understand the global, turbulent, ambiguous and unpredictable era businesses are working in. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you develop leaders who thrive in an exponential world.

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