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Challenging Thinking About the Future of Leadership

By Beth Almes

Beth AlmesAs the digital age evolves and new generations take over, the future of leadership will look different from the present. DDI recently launched Challenging Thinking, a series of think pieces designed to question the status quo of leadership, explore its future, and re-evaluate what still works and what needs to change.

The following pieces are included in this series, with more added every few weeks. I encourage you to check them out to begin challenging your own thinking about leadership.




Is There a Flow State of Leadership?

“Flow” is the state of being totally immersed in an activity. Can leaders attain this state, too?

By Evan Sinar, Ph.D.

Flow State of Leadership

Think of the last time you were completely immersed in a particular activity. You lost track of time; your concentration was at its maximum; it was instantly clear what to do next and how; all the day’s typical distractions just faded away. When you eventually got jarred back to the here and now, you looked back on what you’d accomplished and were surprised at the creativity and sheer volume of what you’d produced—but you still weren’t entirely sure how it happened. There’s a name for this very specific state you were in: it’s called “flow.” Read more.




Could Siri Become Your Leadership Coach?

Artificial intelligence may one day provide actual leadership coaching. But is it a matter of inevitable innovation, pure science fiction, or maybe a bit of both?

By Mike Hoban

Could Siri Become Your Leadership Coach?

Successful leaders in both the public and private sectors have trusted advisors, confidantes, and mentors. They depend on them for insights, for floating trial balloons, for (sometimes) getting unvarnished feedback. Occasionally they just need someone to listen, someone who can be trusted to maintain a cone of silence after a conversation. Those advisors are drawn from a variety of sources—old friends, colleagues, spouses. But the commonality is that all those people that leaders depend on are, well, people. Read more.




Can Today’s Millennial Leaders Become Tomorrow’s Great CEOs?

All CEO positions will eventually be held by Millennials. But will they be ready when their time comes?

By Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., and Rebecca L. Ray, Ph.D.

Millennial Leaders

As many Millennials are already far along in their first leadership jobs, there are several questions we should ponder: What inner values guide their motivations and choice of companies and careers? What does their comfort level with technology mean for how they learn and develop? Will they be more like the current crop of Millennial CEOs or will their leadership styles resemble those CEOs whose ages place them in older generational groups?

The biggest question that hangs over the ascendance of Millennials is this: Will they really be ready when the time comes for them to become CEOs? Read more.




What if New Leaders Ran Your Company for a Year?

New leaders bring many advantages to their roles. So how can you capture and engage the energy of new ideas, new perspectives, and a willingness to innovate?

By Liza Hummel

What if New Leaders Ran Your Company?

When organizations realize they need to change the practical side of work, they turn to their long-time, loyal leaders—the ones who have stuck it out over the decades. These are the people who pulled the company through a rough economy, turned around a dipping revenue streak, navigated the jungle of layoffs or mergers. These leaders have proven their value, and the company is sure it can rely on those same people to propel it into the next 20 years.

So, what’s the problem with using your go-to, tenured "A" team? It isn't so much a problem as a missed opportunity. Read more.




Who’s challenging our thinking about the future of leadership

Just as we’ve been drawing on DDI’s experts to challenge thinking about the current state and future of leadership, we’ve also been paying close attention to how others are talking about the ways leadership is changing across organizations worldwide. Here are a few of the articles that got our attention:




“At These Startups, HR Comes Before the Ping-Pong Tables”
- The Wall Street Journal

Traditionally, human resources has often been thought of as a “must-have” only once a company reaches a certain size, and needs someone to administer benefits and ensure the company complies with employment laws that only pertain to larger workforces.

At DDI, we’ve long been proponents that HR can and should be seen by business leaders as a strategic partner rather than as reactionary administrator.

I was encouraged to see Vanessa Fuhrman’s report that many young companies are adopting this notion of HR as a strategic partner from the beginning. From hiring the right workers to setting the company’s leadership culture, budding young companies are working harder to get it right from the start.




“If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists?”
- Harvard Business Review

Humility is an important quality in leaders. It helps them to recognize and reward the good work their teams do, which builds stronger relationships with employees. Humble leaders also tend to value input from others rather than ignoring others’ expertise in pursuit of their own instinct.

But as Margarita Mayo explains in the Harvard Business Review, we often pass over humble leaders in favor of likable leaders who don’t deliver. It’s not because we have bad judgment. Instead, Mayo says that we are hard-wired to search for superheroes, glorifying leaders who have high energy and take bold, heroic actions that get them a lot of attention but may not serve the organization’s needs.

In other words, choosing a leader based on gut instinct is a major risk. Objective assessment is the only way to accurately predict behavior and performance on the job.




“Why First-Born Children Are Better Leaders”
- The Atlantic

Is there such a thing as a “born leader?” In the study of psychology, we’re always searching for the answers to whether leadership traits are part of a person’s nature or whether they are learned along the way. In this article, Derek Thompson suggests that birth order plays a major role in leadership potential, as first-born children tend to want to dominate their younger siblings and act as rules enforcers.

DDI’s research, however, proves that leadership is a skill that can be learned. So how can the two concepts be reconciled? Easy: the bottom line is that practice is key. In some circumstances, older children may be more inclined toward leadership as they’ve practiced those skills since a young age.

The question not answered in the studies cited by the article is whether the leadership skills honed during childhood are positive or negative. For example, do oldest children tend to lead using dominance and fear? Or are they more skilled at showing empathy and involving others?




I invite you to challenge your thinking and explore the future of leadership with the first four pieces in the Challenging Thinking series. I also welcome you to join the dialogue around the topics or even challenge our thinking with your ideas #DDIChallengingThinking.

Beth Almes is the public relations manager at DDI. She is happiest with either a pen or a spatula in hand.

Posted: 06 Jun, 2017,

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