The Future of Leadership: Top Ten Traits of Tomorrow’s Leaders

In a 2016 interview, Elon Musk commented: “The supply chain stuff is really tricky!”

Indeed it is. 

In our last post, we discussed leadership as a solution to the chaos and disruptions that plague supply chains. We described leadership as the X-Factor. It’s that somewhat unexplained capability that can make a big difference.

Now we’d like to go a step beyond that and explore the future of leadership. We’re going to look at what future leaders will need to lead their businesses through the chaos and disruption.

To recap a bit, the challenges businesses face today, including yours, are not going away. On the contrary, they’re ongoing and are more complex than ever before. The reasons for that are many.

We‘ve had a wave of major trends converging that would make anyone wonder how supply chains work at all. It’s amazing given the obstacles, but supply chains work.

Technology surely is disruptive, but it’s also an advantage. However, more than that, leadership stands out as a way to navigate the challenges of tomorrow. So, we’ll delve into ten traits future leaders must have to succeed.

According to a 2022 McKinsey survey, employees were asked for the reasons they quit their jobs. The results are insightful.

Lack of career development/advancement
Inadequate compensations
Uncaring/uninspiring leaders
Lack of meaningful work
Unsustainable work expectations
Unreliable/non-supportive colleagues
Lack of workplace flexibility
Lack of support for health/well-being

If you examine each of these reasons closely, they are leadership issues. Leaders can influence each one of these issues and turn them around. An attuned leader can reverse these so employees stay rather than leave.

That’s why leadership is that indefinable quality. It can make the difference between success and failure. And now, more than ever, leadership is changing, underscoring the importance of leadership.

Top 10 traits you’ll need to succeed in the marketplace

#1 The accessible leader.

Many businesses today run 24×7. They’re always on. Therefore, it stands to reason that employees work shifts around the clock. If employees are working around the clock, then naturally, so must their leaders. The reason leaders must be available is that issues don’t restrict themselves to 9–5 operations.

Leaders must be available and accessible to make decisions only leaders can make. If a customer demands to speak to a manager, regardless of the hour, responsive businesses will oblige. Being accessible isn’t easy, so it takes a leader who is dedicated.

#2 The dedicated leader.

In times of declining company loyalty, additional pressure is put on leaders to be loyal to their companies. They must dedicate themselves to their business, their employees, and their customers. Dedicated leaders instill inspiration and lead by example. Both encourage a workforce that is distrustful of their leaders.

Today’s dedicated leaders genuinely want to deal with employee and customer issues. This is the end of organizations run by aloof leaders unconcerned about people. Along with dedication, tomorrow’s leaders must also be motivated.

#3 The motivated leader.

Given the many challenges facing businesses today, tomorrow’s leaders must be motivated. Tomorrow’s leaders must remain motivated so they can make timely and beneficial decisions.

As cited above, there are at least ten reasons employees leave their jobs. And all have a leadership aspect for them. Leadership can determine whether those issues become reasons for leaving an organization. Left untended, those issues become serious problems, causing employees to quit. The sheer number of issues facing leaders requires a level of motivation only the best leaders exemplify. And the best leaders are not only motivated, but they’re also well informed.

#4 The informed leader.

The currency of today’s businesses is information. Information makes ordering, manufacturing, distributing, storing, and issuing products possible. Add BI and analytics to that and you see information’s value and predominance.

So, it’s incumbent on leaders to consume, digest, and analyze that plethora of information. Not only must they do so, but they must also make decisions rapidly. Information is time-sensitive, making prompt decision-making imperative. As data-based decision-making becomes the norm, leaders must strive to be well-informed.

#5 The experienced leader.

Besides being well-informed, leaders offering a competitive edge have experience. Education, training, and skills are important elements of leadership. But experience is an intangible element that you can’t ignore.

Experienced leaders are leaders who have gained special insights from managing a business. Experiences at each level of leadership influence, and mold leaders indelibly. Experience forges leaders like no other element of leadership. You can’t replicate the daily conditions of working and deciding under pressure that make experience a must-have leadership trait.

#6 The strategy-minded leader.

A lesson learned from the pandemic was that logistics and supply chain management are “…really tricky” as Elon Musk stated. The disruptions at ports, container yards, railheads, and warehouses laid bare much of what is wrong with supply chains. It showed intermodal operations aren’t isolated but connected, as the name suggests. That made clear that moving forward requires a strategic outlook.

Strategic planning got a boost from the fallout of the pandemic. Hence, future leaders must have a strategic mindset. That mindset must consider the enterprise, not a narrower, insulated view. Strategic thinking facilitates thinking about the big picture, the long-term, and second and third-order effects of potential decisions. Future leaders cannot overlook this major shift in thinking about supply chains.

#7 The customer-focused leader.

In thinking strategically, future leaders must make the customer the center of their business. Consumers now interact with leadership daily. Leaders no longer operate in seclusion. They’re out in the open. That makes leaders more accountable to their business, employees and to customers.

Today, consumers have a say in product development. They have visibility of pricing, expected delivery times, delays, and more. And when that’s a change, they know as soon as senior leaders know. Leaders must make customers the center of strategic planning. Future leaders must take an end-to-end view of customers’ needs and desires and factor that into strategic plans to ensure first-rate customer service and support.

#8 The competition-aware leader.

When you take care of customers, you are addressing your company’s core reason for existence. In being aware of the competition, future leaders are building a competitive edge. That competitive edge starts with the customer. To extend that competitive edge, as a future leader, you must also know what the competition is doing. For example, competitors inside your industry might develop a new technology or a trend-setting business practice.

Awareness of your competition helps keep you ahead of trends. Failure to do so can leave your business flat-footed. Your business can find itself outmaneuvered and unable to compete. Awareness establishes a framework for continuing watchfulness. And that can lead to unique insights that can make a difference between success or failure.

#9 The risk-aware leader.

Risk awareness relates closely to competitor awareness. The difference is that risk awareness focuses on what conditions exist or might exist that put your business at risk. Some risks are unavoidable, but you can still prepare for them to mitigate their impact. Other risks are avoidable for which you can prepare. As President Kennedy stated in his State of the Union Address in 1962, “The best time to replace a roof is when the sun is shining.”

That captures the idea of taking preventive measures while you can. Optionality is one way to mitigate risk that has crept into supply chain management, since the pandemic. It entails eliminating single points of failure at critical supply chain nodes. As history has shown, doing that is less costly than not investing in preventive measures. Future leaders must be risk-aware, especially since risks will likely continue to increase.

#10 The growth-oriented leader.

Risk awareness has many benefits operationally and financially. One new way of looking at risk entails considering risk as a profit center rather than a cost center. That’s only one element of being growth-oriented, but it shows how thinking has shifted. The same applies to viewing logistics as a profit center instead of a cost center.

Cost-cutting to remain competitive reflects pre-pandemic thinking. Tomorrow’s leaders must make growth-oriented thinking permeate strategic thinking. Doing that prepares your business for the long-term. It can make your business your business more agile and resilient. In short, It can make your business more responsive, which will likely lead to growth. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, if you aren’t growing, you’re falling behind (the competition).

Is the Future of Leadership Mission Impossible?

If you’ve read this far, it might seem like a tough, if not impossible, goal for any leader to achieve. This list of ten traits, by itself, is lengthy. The challenges inherent in this list are substantial.

That raises the question of whether anyone can realistically develop all the traits. In short, the answer is yes. The secret lies in one thing: focusing on people. In each point discussed, people are explicitly or implicitly mentioned.

Leadership, by definition, involves people. So the leaders of tomorrow must make people their chief concern. Everything else will fall into place when you put people at the center of your business.

At American Global Logistics, we put people first, always. We’re a customer-focused, people-oriented business. We look to the future while being mindful of the present.

Keeping our eye on the future allows us to provide our customers with the best customer service. We’ve already embraced the ten traits of future leadership. Our customers know first-hand and can attest to the leadership we practice.

Contact us if you’re interested in navigating the challenges of the future with a leadership edge that will withstand the greatest challenges the future throws at you.   

Supply Chain Optionality

How a company deliberately and surgically eliminates single points of failure by building redundancies in its supply base, internal manufacturing, and distribution facilities, transportation modes, and routes to market.

By creating optionality, companies ensure business continuity and product availability despite disruptions. With optionality, powered by technologies like digital twins and artificial intelligence, organizations reduce risk and improve resilience by testing scenarios and evaluating the impacts of their decisions.