How the Future of Work Will Transform Leadership
Bestselling author, keynote speaker, and professionally trained futurist Jacob Morgan joins DDI for a powerful discussion on how the future of work will radically change the future of leadership.
Welcome to the Leadership 480 Podcast. My name is Stephanie Neal, and I will be your host today for a special episode. Joining us is Jacob Morgan, a bestselling author, professionally trained futurist and sought-after keynote speaker on leadership, the future of work and employee experience. He's also the host of an award winning podcast called the Future of Work With Jacob Morgan and a top social influencer, who has been featured on our own hot topics blog for three years running, and this is actually how we got to be connected.
Jacob, thanks so much for joining us today.
Of course, thank you for having me.
Yeah, we're thrilled to have you here. And you've recently released your latest book, The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade, which we're going to talk about in a few minutes. But first, I wanted to ask you about what's going on right now for leaders? The Coronavirus is accelerating change for all of us on many levels, and you talk to leaders and work with organizations around the world. What have you been hearing about the impact that this is having?
Well, it's really interesting the impact that this is having on leaders because I think it's really really forcing leaders around the world to focus more on the human stuff. In fact, I've been so fascinated to see that over the past few months, a lot of conversations have shifted away from things like AI and automation and job displacement as a result of technology to stories that are focusing on leaders who are committing to not laying off employees during 2020, CEOs who are hosting Zoom calls and doing storytime for the kids of their employees who work there. You see all these really just human authentic stories that have completely replaced all of this technology and automation stuff.
So I think really what this has shown us is the importance for leaders around the world to first and foremost focus on being good human beings, not prioritizing numbers, not prioritizing a growth, not prioritizing dollars and cents but really prioritizing the health, the well being, the connection, the relationships that leaders have with their people. Because now more than ever, I think what we're starting to realize is that business is human.
None of what we're doing can exist without these human connections and relationships, and I think this is now becoming super crystal clear in the minds of leaders around in the world, which I honestly think is a very good thing, because we need to wake up and realize that we're still humans. Business is fundamentally based on people and relationships, and sometimes we can forget that as we chase technology, as we chase stock price performance and quarterly numbers. So this is one of the biggest things I think we're starting to see.
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more, and I think that's a really interesting point, because of course leaders are often or have been historically really results driven. So I'm wondering from your perspective, what do you think it is that leaders need to do differently to get through this challenging time in terms of how they lead?
Well, there are a few things that I think leaders need to focus on. So first and foremost, the challenge for a lot of leaders now is most of them, not all, but most of them are very used to leading in a world where people show up to the office, where you can see people that are working, you can go over to them, you can host a meeting and look at somebody's body language and look somebody in the eye. And so now a lot of leaders are having to lead teams, lead people that they can't actually physically see, right? We're doing everything via video conferencing.
So being able to make sure that as a leader, you can get your messaging across, that you can inspire your team the same way, that you can create that culture, the desired culture that you want to see, that you can encourage those behaviors that you want to see, but doing so in a virtual setting where you can't physically be around the people that you're with. I think that's been probably the biggest change for leaders around the world.
Everything from performance management, to communication, to collaboration, team building, all these things that we're so used to doing in person are being shifted towards a digital and virtual world and it's honestly it's not the same. And so we're really starting to have to figure out how do we operate in that new kind of a world. So that's been a very, very interesting thing to see for leaders.
I think the second component is it's also very hard for leaders to shift away from the performance mentality to the human mentality, because usually when we host meetings, when we engage with our people, we're very tempted to shift towards like, hey, how's that project going? Do you think we're going to meet our numbers? And now all of a sudden, we have to shift our conversation to how's your family doing? Are you okay? Is there anything that you need? Do you need some time off? Our conversations as leaders have very much shifted, and this is something that some leaders are more comfortable with, because they're inherently more focused on those human aspects. But for a lot of leaders who are 100% just about performance, this is a very hard thing for them to do because as you can imagine, if you're getting on a call with a bunch of people, and the first thing that you say is, hey, Bill, hey, Tina, how are those numbers going? Meanwhile, these are people who are having to stand in line for hours to get groceries, they might have a sick relative, it just feels weird.
It feels like your leader does not care about you, and so this shift from performance from purely just focusing on the business to focusing more on the individual, the people, the employees, has also been a very, very interesting shift and something that I think leaders need to pay attention to as well.
Yeah, that's a great call-out, and I do think it's interesting to be thinking about it both, during this time and also after, how that impact is going to continue to last. So I'd be curious, just building on that, do you think that this is something that's going to change for leaders or is there something else it's more of that biggest change that's going to happen for leaders due to this crisis?
Well, so you just mean in general as far as how leadership styles might change after this?
Yes, yeah. That's a great way to take it.
Well, a few things, right? So I do think that after this pandemic is over, we will get to some sense of normalcy in terms of a lot of people around the world will end up I think going back to an office. I think a lot of people around the world are excited to go back to an office to see their co-workers, to see their peers. So I do think that that's going to happen, right? I mean, there's some people who say, oh, we're never going to work in an office again, and everyone's going to work from home forever. Honestly, I think that's all BS.
This is something that we've even talked about decades ago with the rise of co-working facilities and virtual and remote work and everybody said the office is going to die and if anything, we've seen more being invested in corporate offices is redesigns and these amazing spaces being created. So I don't think that the idea of working from an office is going to disappear, not even close. I do think we will see more flexible work programs. I think we will see more organizations offer this, and it'll be more of a dynamic workforce where it's you don't always have to show up to the office, but you don't always have to be home either. You can kind of have a little bit more that balance.
So I think we will see much more of those capabilities, but it's not going to be one or the other. But as far as generally how leadership styles will change as a result of COVID, as a result of Coronavirus, I think some of the things that I touched on, perhaps the biggest change is going to be a focus more on the human aspects of leadership, which is going to be essential. That's honestly the biggest thing for leaders around the world. It's going to be shifting towards caring about their people, understanding their employees as individuals not just as workers and really prioritizing and putting their people ahead of profits, and I hope that that is the biggest change that we see.
That's great. I think that touches on a few things that you recently covered in your book as well. So I want to transition over and talk a bit about your new book, The Future Leader. Can you tell us a bit about it and the research that you conducted behind it?
Yeah, and it's actually very timely with what we're talking about now, and the reason why I wrote the book, there were two basically questions that I wanted to answer. The first question is, will the leader of 2030 be that different than the leader of today? And if so, how will that lead or be different? And I had some ideas. I had some assumptions on this, but I didn't actually have any concrete data or stories or examples, and as I started to do some research online, I realized that there wasn't a lot that really explored this. Most of the leadership books that are out there are based on either past stories and experiences, they're various much focused on the present or they're based on a few observations, right?
Somebody might do an entire book based on like three companies, and that is very hard to apply to kind of the general business world. And so I really wanted to try to answer these two questions, but actually approach it from a place where I have data, but also look at some stories and some examples. And so what I started to do is I went off, and I wanted to see if I could start to talk to some CEOs, and I speak at a lot of conferences every single year for organizations, and so there were a couple of CEOs that I know that I've worked with for previous books, or I've spoken at their events, and I started to reach out to some of these CEOs and see if they'd want to talk to me. And I had no idea how many CEOs would talk to me I thought, I don't know, maybe five, maybe 10. And so I got to five, I got to 10, and then I started to reach out to even more.
I got to 50, 60, 70, and I was like, oh my goodness, I had no idea that so many business leaders would want to talk to me. And eventually we got to 140 CEOs, just over 140 CEOs around the world. And so I interviewed all of these CEOs and basically asked them a series of questions around biggest trends for future leaders, the greatest challenges, skills and mindsets, all these different things that I think are going to be essential. The other thing that I did is I partnered with LinkedIn, and we surveyed around 14,000 employees around the world, just to see how the perspectives and insights of employees align with the perspectives and insights of CEOs. And so really, I was able to collect from all of this survey data, from all of these CEO interviews.
I like to think what I did is I painted a very comprehensive, dare I say the most comprehensive picture on what it's going to take for someone to be a leader over the next decade and beyond. And by the way, I have quite a few stats from DDI in the book as well, because I know you guys do a lot of research on this as well. So you had some really cool reports that I was able to use. The one that I think came to mind, just off the top of my head is I think you guys did a study on a leadership bench, and...
Yeah, from the Global Leadership Forecast, yep, that's right.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And I mean, that was really cool, and I don't remember the numbers off the top of my head but basically, it was if some sort of a leadership virus came out now and just wiped out leaders around the world, do we have a strong enough bench for people to come in and replace those leaders? And it was shocking to me, I mean, in your research you guys found around the world that we don't have enough confidence. We don't have a leadership bench. We're not thinking about future leaders in the way that we should be, and that to me really aligned with the research that I did as well, and I found the same thing that by and large, we are not ready for the future. Our leaders are not ready, and so that's really what the book talks about, is how do we get ready? What are the skills and mindsets that we need? How well are we practicing these now? And I mean, I can share more about the data and research if you want, but I'll stop there.
Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm really glad that you called that out because I have to admit, in reading through that section of your book, it was really chilling to, of course, see that you'd even called it out if it's potential leadership virus. And I know, you certainly couldn't have been thinking about, or anticipating what we're going through right now happening so quickly after that book, but I am curious, as you were writing this, did you think about the trends that we are starting to see now? And how do you really think about how we can anticipate the future in that way?
Yeah, so the trends that I talked about, well, and I should say that these aren't even trends that I specifically identified, these are trends that the CEOs identified. And so there were six of them, six main ones, I think, which I talk about in there. Yeah, six. And so some of the trends that are huge for future leaders to pay attention to, of course, we have things like AI and technology.
There were things around pace of change, changing demographics, globalization, ethics and transparency, things like purpose and meaning. All of these are really, really important trends, which are changing the way that we need to think about leaders and leadership, and sometimes I do get a little bit of pushback from people and they say, well, I don't think it's going to be that different. I think if you're a great leader now and you were a great leader 20 years ago, you will be a great leader 10 years from now, and I challenged these CEOs that I interviewed with the same thing and I said, a lot of people are telling you this, what do you say? And by far the most common response I got back is look, our organizations are changing all the time, and if you think about where business is now, organizations are going to look fundamentally different in a decade from now.
We're going to have new business models, we're going to have new ways of working. The business world is going to look fundamentally different a decade from now than what we're experiencing. And so if our businesses are going to look different in 10 years and our world is going to look different in 10 years, then it's obvious that we're going to need a new type of leader in 10 years, and they're going to be some core aspects of leadership that will indeed remain the same. Things like being able to set a vision, things like being able to execute on strategy. Those are things that have always been important, but at the same time be CEOs identified a new arsenal of skills and mindsets that are going to be important in order to be able to succeed in the future, and I think that's really important for us to pay attention to. And we can see I mean, just look at the business world now. How many stories do we hear of corruption? How high are the disengagement numbers for employees around the world?
Just the stats around leadership and work in general around the world are quite honestly, depressing. I mean, they're abysmal. So if we had the right leaders in place in organizations around the world, the numbers wouldn't be as low as they are. We wouldn't see the stories in the news that we keep seeing. So there's a big problem in the world of leadership today but I think there's also a tremendous opportunity. And the analogy that I draw in the book, and this is the thing that like boggles my mind the most is, if you were driving in your car, and you had your family in the car with you and all of a sudden the check engine like comes on, and the fuel light comes on, and all these little notifications come on your car that something is wrong, you would stop driving.
You would get out of the car and say, okay, everybody out. The car needs to be towed, it needs to be fixed, we're not going to continue on our long journey while we're sitting in this car, right? That's the normal the sensible thing to do. And so we're kind of in that same situation where we collectively in the business world are sitting in this massive car, we have all these indicator lights around the world that are flashing, employees are not engaged, we're not happy at work, everybody's stressed out. We have all these indicator lights that are flashing around everywhere, and instead of stopping the car and getting out, our leaders around the world are like no, we're just going to keep going and see what happens, and that to me is just completely mind boggling and doesn't make any sense.
And so my hope is that after people read this book, they're going to realize, hey, you know what? It's time for us to stop the car, and we need to start to change the way that we think about leaders and leadership.
Wow, that is such a powerful analogy, and I think, what you're really hinting at there is of course kind of taking stock or thinking about who you have that's capable to continue to lead that future. And I'd be curious, thinking for leaders themselves, what is it that they should be doing to help make that be a better drive for their organizations and to help things go more smoothly?
Sure. So this is where we get into the skills and mindsets. So what I want to quickly say about these skills and mindsets after I share a couple of them with you, you're going to find that it's not like these things are new, right? It's not like there is a skill that I'm going to share with you and you're going to say, oh my God, I've never, ever heard of that in my entire life. These are skills and mindsets that we've heard of before. But these are skills and mindsets that we today don't have to practice to get into a leadership position.
There are a lot of leaders out there who got into their roles because they play the game well. They know how to navigate bureaucracy. They bring in the biggest deals. They know how to play with office politics. And so they get into these leadership positions, but they don't practice the skills and mindsets that I'm going to share with you in a little bit. And so what these CEOs have told me is that this is no longer going to work, and while these skills and mindsets are applicable today, the reality is that you don't have to actually practice them to become a leader today but over the next 10 years, these will be essential.
In other words, if you don't practice these skills, and mindsets, you will not be able to become a leader regardless of the deals that you bring in, and how well you're able to navigate your corporate bureaucracy and play with office politics. That's not going to save you anymore. So some of the skills and mindsets and I won't go through all of them, but I call these the notable nine, and the notable nine is a collection of four mindsets and five skills. So some of the mindsets are things like curiosity, and in the book I talk about them, I create a little personas for them like the mindset of the explorer, the servant, the chef, and the global citizen, and I talk about skills in terms of the coach, the translator, the futurist, the technology, teenager, and Yoda. And so the mindsets are things like curiosity.
These are things like being service oriented, and service oriented also means servicing and serving yourself because if you can't take care of yourself, and you can't show up to work to take care of others to lead them.
Yeah, that seems to be a really important one right now, too. I think that one's worth calling out a bit further just to say, obviously, serving your employees right now is important to think about employee well being but if leaders aren't doing that, right now, there's no way they're going to be there to support their teams in the way they need to either.
Yeah, it's amazing we forget about that all the time. That if you aren't taking care of yourself, this is why whenever you get into a plane, and the flight attendants, they go over their safety briefings, they say, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, because you can't help others if you are not in a position to help. So if there's a leader, you're constantly showing up to work, you're stressed out, you're burned out, you're overworked, you're unhappy. How can you possibly lead others? How can you motivate and engage and empower and inspire others if you're at work every day thinking, oh my god, how am I going to get through today?
So take care of yourself first before you take care of others, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, whatever you need to do, right? Eat healthy, exercise, meditate, I don't care, but you need to show up every day in a position where you can actually help other people, which is essential. So that's part of the servant mindset. I have the chef mindset which is about balancing two ingredients. One is technology and the other ingredient is humanity, and I call this in the book HumanIT. So I call it humanity but the ity part is just IT.
That looks great.
So H-U-M-A-N-I-T, HumanIT. So you got to balance those two things, the human aspect of work with the technology aspect of work. And then we have the global citizen, which is about embracing diversity, surrounding yourself with people who are not like you, and being able to think bigger picture. And so these are just ways that you need to think, and then there are skills that I talked about in the book, which are things that leaders actually need to know how to do, and the most important skill that the CEOs identified is thinking like a futurist. And thinking like a future, I'd say, from all the skills this is probably the one that most people are probably not familiar with the most.
Yeah, and I'm really curious too, because obviously knowing your background, knowing you're a professionally trained futurist, I'd be curious, what does that mean and how can leaders develop it to be more of a futurist?
Thinking like a futurist basically means that you think in terms of scenarios and possibilities and options instead of picking a single path and going down it. So the challenge that a lot of leaders have is that usually what happens we can get very tunnel vision, right? We pick a path, we pick a project, we pick something, and we go down that one thing blindly, right?
I mean, that's where we're going, I don't care what happens. That's where we're going to go. And thinking like a futurist means that before you pick a path that you want to go down, you think in terms of many paths at the same time, and so I'll give you an analogy and the way that I like to think about it, so I play a lot of chess, and in chess one of the things that separates an amateur player from a stronger player is their ability to think in terms of these possibilities and scenarios. And so an amateur player might think in terms of like, okay, well, I'll move my pawn, my opponent might move their rook, I'll move my bishop, you think in terms of just one move, one thing that can happen. A stronger player thinks in terms of scenarios, and they might think, okay, well, I could move one of these pieces, and depending on which piece I move, my opponent might respond in one of these different types of ways. And if my opponent responds in one of these types of ways, then these are my options.
So you think in terms of different scenarios, and possibilities and options instead of thinking about one path, and the interesting thing is we do this in our personal lives quite frequently. Think about a time when you go on a date with somebody or when you buy a house in a new location. Immediately you start to think well, what happens if I stay in this location for a while? Is the property value going to go up or is it going to go down? What are the schools like in this neighborhood? Do I see myself living here in the long run?
You start to think in terms of scenarios. Same thing, when you go on a date with somebody, well, is this somebody that I could spend the rest of my life with? Well, is my family going to like this person? How is this person going to handle a time of stress and difficulty? You start to think in terms of these scenarios and possibilities and what ifs, but for some reason, when we show up to work, this way of thinking gets pushed out of us, and we're just obsessed with the right answer. We're obsessed with just being heads down, focusing on the project, getting the task done, and we don't actually think in terms of these possibilities and scenarios and the future and the what ifs, and that's a very, very important skill for leaders and just for everybody to have. And so that's really what thinking like a futurist means.
That's a great, excellent explanation, and I do think that you call it out in that piece that leaders need to be thinking about right now, which is really looking up and looking ahead, even though there's tremendous uncertainty, which probably makes it a bit scary in a lot of ways to be looking out and thinking far ahead. So I'd be curious, what advice would you have right now for leaders to be able to do that and think ahead when maybe we don't have all the pieces and it's not a necessarily super clear path or even timeline for how things might change in the near future?
Well, whenever you think ahead, you never have all the pieces otherwise you'd be able to predict the future. And so, in the book, I talk about a series of questions that people can ask themselves, but there's this kind of this visual that I like to use, and when I got my certification and foresight from the University of Houston, they teach this tool that a lot of futurists use to anticipate. And by the way, a lot of people think that futurists to predict the future. That's not what futures do. Futurists simply just try to help make sure that we are not surprised by what the future might bring, and so the tool that a lot of futurists use is known as the cone of possibility or the cone of uncertainty, it has a couple different names. And so the way that you can imagine this is, imagine that you're peering through the narrow end of a cone, and the narrowest part of the cone, the part that's closest to you is, small, right? It's very narrow, and that also represents the closest time horizon.
And in the closest time horizon because that piece of the cone is so narrow, there's not a lot of possibility, right? It's narrow, there's not a lot of variation there. And if you look farther out into the cone, the cone becomes wider, and as you look farther out, the time horizon increases. And really what that means is that the farther out you look, the more possibilities and scenarios that'll start to become available. And so a lot of us for example know what's going to happen today, tomorrow, next month, maybe even by the end of the year, right? There's not that much variation in terms of what's going to happen. But let's say you start to look out two years, three years, five years, all of a sudden, there starts to be lot more variability, the cone is broader, there's a lot of different things that might happen.
And so from that perspective, you can start to think ask yourself a series of questions that you can just apply and ask on a regular basis, and this is something by the way that you can do for big projects, for small projects, for whatever it is that you want to do. And so some of the questions you can ask yourself are, well, why might something happen? So, let's say for example, we're looking at something like technology automation jobs, something in that nature. So the first question that you can immediately start to ask yourself is, well, why might something happen or not happen? So for example, we see a lot of job displacement, why might we not see a lot of job displacement, right? Very, very basic question.
So why might something happen? Second question you can ask yourself is what else might happen? So you have this idea of what might happen, what if you had to think of something else? Well, what else might happen? Third question you can ask yourself is what do you want to happen? And the fourth question you should ask yourself is what might impact why or why not something would happen?
So again, let's quickly walk through this scenario of AI and jobs. So why might something happen? Okay, well, so why might technology and AI replace millions of jobs around the world? Well, we can start to think of some ideas. It might happen, let's say if technology progresses, if we get a lot of rules and regulations, they get passed that support putting technology ahead of people, right? So it's possible it might happen. What else might happen?
Well, we might approach a world where things are kind of the way they are now. Maybe technology will progress but we're not going to have the rules and policies and regulations in place that allow organizations to take as much advantage of technology as they want. So maybe technology will just take control of mundane jobs, and things will be just fine. What do I want to happen? Well, personally, I would love to see technology take away a lot of the mundane routine jobs, and I would love to see a lot of new creative, innovative jobs get created for humans, what might impact why or why not something would happen? Again, you can kind of see the direction that this goes, and this is just a way for leaders to think. This can be about a project. This can be about a new product that you are thinking of creating. But just thinking in terms of these scenarios, and asking yourself these four questions on a regular basis is going to be super helpful.
This is Stephanie Neal with the Leadership 480 Podcast and I'm here speaking with Jacob Morgan, about the impact of Coronavirus on the future of work. Thinking about the current environment that we're in right now, I would be curious, do you have one piece of advice for leaders for what they should be doing to think about and prepare for the future of their teams going back to work? What should they be thinking about?
Probably the best piece of advice would be to look at the skills and mindsets that I talk about, right? And I wish there was just one mindset or one skill. I suppose it'll all come down to just putting people first. But these mindsets and skills are going to be essential regardless of what the business world looks like.
So things like emotional intelligence, thinking about these scenarios and possibilities, motivating and engaging people, all of these things are essential for leaders, all right? So there's not just one, but maybe the just big broad bucket, when we get back to work, is let's just remember that it is people, it is humans that make business possible and they should always, always be put first above everything else. And when you stop doing that, and when you take people inside of your organization for granted, I think that's when we start to see problems emerge. And by the way, one piece of just, well, I guess there are two interesting stats that I want to share with people who are listening.
So the first thing that I learned is that I asked a lot of these business leaders, a lot of the people who we surveyed, we broke it up into individual contributors, mid-level managers and top executives, and I asked all of these leaders, how well do you think you're practicing a lot of these skills and mindsets today? Emotional intelligence, empathy, all these things that we talked about and a lot of the leaders who responded to this we're like, we're doing a pretty good job. Not amazing, but pretty good. And then I interviewed the people or surveyed a lot of the people who work for these leaders, and I said, okay, well, how well do you think your leaders are doing when it comes to practicing these skills and mindsets? Less than 10% of all the people who we surveyed, would say that their leaders are practicing these skills and mindsets very well.
So the crazy gap here that we see is that leaders in general and this I think explains why we have such high disengagement numbers around the world, and why so many employees around the world are frustrated with their leaders, why we don't have the right leadership bench, why so many employees think they can do a better job than their leaders and I found tons of stats to support that too. Leaders are, for a lack of a better phrase, I think out to lunch. They think that they are doing a pretty good job, they're ready for the future, they have the skills, they have the mindsets, they got everything under control.
The people who work for these leaders disagree dramatically. Not even close. We're talking like a 40% gap, 50% gap in some of these places.
Yeah, that's really a huge difference, and [crosstalk 00:34:23] we've had research that also supports exactly what you're saying, and I think what it really calls into question is, how much can people perceive their own capabilities or do they need an objective measure to let them know where they're strong, where they have areas to improve? And we definitely see that's a critical piece of leaders developing but I'd be curious from your perspective, is this just a huge blind spot for leaders particularly around the emotional intelligence and empathy side that you're saying is so critical right now to be putting people first?
Well, I think it comes down to a couple of reasons. So first, I think that leaders are doing a poor job of communicating these things with the people. So for example, I might be a leader inside of an organization, and I'm watching a lot of TED Talks, I'm listening to podcasts, so I think that I'm actually doing a pretty good job of practicing these skills and mindsets but I'm doing it in isolation. I'm learning about these things, but I'm not practicing them. So A, there's a fundamental difference between learning about something and putting it into practice. Second, as a leader, you need to communicate with your people that these are the things that you are working on, and how you're actually putting these things into place.
So having that relationship with your people where you can say, look, I want to work on emotional intelligence, and here are some of the things that I'm going to do. Having that kind of communication and dialogue I don't think happens, and maybe it's due to bureaucracy, maybe it's due to hierarchy, it could be due to a lot of things. I think there are also a lot of leaders out there who are simply interested in their own self observation, and so they're focused on themselves instead of necessarily focused on their people, and this is very true. I mean, especially in larger organizations and larger organizations, one of the things that people care about most is climbing the corporate ladder because you get a lot of perks for climbing that corporate ladder.
Obviously you get more and more responsibility, more pay, a higher bonus, you get a lot of benefits the higher up you go. And so in a lot of organizations, we're very interested in going up as high up that corporate ladder as we can, and the way that we reward a lot of people inside of our organizations is very much focused on your individual performance. So if you focus on individual performance, on what you're doing and how you're growing, then what incentive do you have as a leader to bring anybody with you on this journey? None. Absolutely none.
So there are a lot of reasons, I think for why this problem is happening but it really shows that it's the kind of classic ivory tower problem, and the other thing that I found is that the more senior you become in your company, the higher up that corporate ladder you go, the more disconnected you become from your people. In other words, the bigger the gap becomes between how well you think you're doing these things versus how well people who work for you think you're doing these things.
So this gap needs to close. As a leader, if you want to close this gap, you need to have this open dialogue with your people around what these skills and mindsets are, what you're doing to practice them, and the analogy that I always like to use and if anybody's seen the book, you'll notice that the cover of a book is a lighthouse. And the whole principle, the whole idea for the cover of lighthouse is for leaders to understand that they need to build themselves up to become this lighthouse but a lighthouse without ships in the water is useless. So if you're simply building yourself up to become the tallest and the brightest lighthouse that there is, but there are no ships in the water, then you as a lighthouse are 120% useless.
You also need to remember that your job, your responsibility is to bring people along with you, guide them to success, ensure their safety. That's the whole purpose of a lighthouse and why it exists. So a lot of leaders forget that.
Yeah, I'm glad you called that out. Like we saw, it's such an important perspective, and also I love the analogy that you're sharing, and I think another piece of what this really comes down to is leadership is really hard, right? It's not simple, and you've obviously shown even through the book, how many different skills and mindsets can really help someone to be a strong leader.
So if organizations reward the behaviors that are really essential for the future, it sounds like that's the right way. I'd be curious from your perspective, do you think that's something from the CEOs that you've interviewed and others that you've spoken to, that maybe isn't in place yet? Is there a system that really rewards people for the right kinds of leadership?
I don't think we have those systems in place. I think maybe there are some organizations out there that do have this in place but by and large, our systems of leadership and just our systems of work are based on principles that are how many decades old, 100 years, 80, 70, 60 years old. I mean, it's not even close, and it's just totally mind boggling that we are having such a hard time figuring this out.
I mean, look at for example, what we've seen with the whole pandemic, for how many years have we talked about flexible work and remote work and technology and all this stuff? I mean, several decades, at least, right? I mean, two decades, maybe even more.
At least, yeah.
Yeah, and organizations around the world we're kind of like, no. Come into the office, blah, blah, blah. All of a sudden we get this pandemic and everybody freaks out. Oh, we don't have tools in place. We don't have policies in place. We don't have guidelines. Everybody's scrambling, nobody knows what the heck is going on. And so, what's interesting is that it's taken something like the Coronavirus to fast forward a lot of organizations workplace practices 10, 20 years forward, which has been fascinating to see especially in the digital transformation space. And so my hope is that after all this is over, people are going to start to challenge their conventional workplace practices, leadership styles.
The other step that I wanted to share and this was I've found completely nuts. The average age for people who enter a leadership development program is in their early 40s.
Okay, so think about that for a minute. Most people don't enter a leadership development program, it depends a little bit on the research that you look at in the country, but it's on average, late 30s, early mid 40s. You start work in your 20s. Okay, a lot of people even in their late teens. So this means that you're in the workforce for a decade, maybe two decades, before you were even put into a leadership development program.
A lot of people become leaders in their 20s at some level whether you're a supervisor, an entry level leader, maybe a mid-level leader. There are a lot of people who are even senior leaders in their late 20s and early 30s. So how is it that we're not even training people to become leaders until they have kind of passed their prime so to speak. I mean, this is like taking a top athlete, like a Michael Jordan or a Federer and saying, okay, well, you're 38 now. Now we're going to teach you how to become a great tennis player or a great basketball player. Makes absolutely no sense.
Yeah, and it's such a missed opportunity, what you're calling out. And I will say, from our research, we found that it is 36 is the age, the average age at which someone becomes a leader, and typically they don't see leadership development or receive it until about 42. So, absolutely, maps on to that. That's from our friendly leadership project, and it's fascinating to think about the implications of that, right? Because, obviously, as you mentioned, it's not just learning and getting the development, it's also having the time to apply and the opportunities to practice. So I think that's such a critical point that you're making that we need [crosstalk 00:42:44].
Yeah. We want people to get into these programs as early is frickin' possible, right? And again, it goes back to this traditional mentality that we have about leadership. Stay at the company for a while then maybe we'll promote you, will put you into this exclusive training program for a select few people and not everybody gets it. Makes no sense. Yeah, you should want people, yeah, get people in these programs as early as you possibly can.
Yeah, I think that's great advice and I also think for leaders, the more that they can do to develop themselves it helps, but they can ask for that development too, which is great. Hey, before we wrap up, Jacob, it's fascinating to hear about everything in the book, and I know I've enjoyed it. I definitely want to talk to you more about it in the future. But before we wrap up, I'd like to ask you one last question, because I think you're going to have a really interesting perspective. Can you share a moment of leadership that had an impact on you?
Oh, my goodness, that had an impact on me. I can share a bad moment of leadership that had an impact on me.
Yeah, that's great.
And anybody who's familiar with my content will probably know this story and be very sick of me sharing this story, and I call this my coffee story. And basically I was always a terrible student for most of my life. In high school, I had like a 2.79 GPA, went to a community college, I got a 2.8 GPA, and finally I went to the University of California Santa Cruz, and I double majored in economics and psychology. I graduated with honors and I had like a 3.8 GPA, and I just realized that if this was my last chance and if I screw up in college, that I'm not going to get a job anywhere. Nobody's going to want to hire me.
So quite honestly, I worked my ass off. I worked non-stop. Everybody was out partying and I was sitting in the college library preparing for tests. That's literally what I did with massive cups of coffee, and so after I graduated college, I was like, okay, I am ready to join the corporate world. I worked hard. I got these dual degrees. I'm ready. So I went to go interview for this company in Southern California, which is where I'm originally from, and it was a technology company. It was in downtown Los Angeles. It was an hour and a half away from where I lived with my parents at home at the time.
So it was an hour and a half commute there, an hour and a half commute back from work. But when I interviewed there, I was told that I would be doing these amazing things and meeting with entrepreneurs and traveling across the country and making a difference. I was sold on this story. So I took the job, and I thought, you know what? The heck with this commute. They told me a compelling story. I'm going to take it.
So a couple months into my job, I'm doing data entry, and cold calling and PowerPoint presentations, already feeling very dejected. Realizing that I did not need a college degree to do any of what I was doing, and the pivotal moment for me came when top executive at this company from his beautiful corner office, he opens his door and he says, hey, Jacob, I have something that I need your help with, and I got excited, and I thought, okay, paid my dues, here it comes. Something exciting is going to happen, and he reaches into his wallet and he takes out a $10 bill and he says I'm late for a meeting and I need you to go run down to Starbucks to get me a cup of coffee, and get yourself a latte as well.
And internally, I was saying all sorts of obscenities and obviously I didn't say these things out loud but needless to say, I went to go get him that cup of coffee, and that was one of the last full time jobs I ever had working for anybody else, and I had a couple of little experiences here and there, but they all kind of proved to go down the same path.
Interestingly enough, I saw this person at an airport a couple months ago, after not seeing him for probably around 15 years, and I'm getting on a flight from Oakland to Los Angeles because I was going to record the audio version of my book and I'm sitting there waiting for the flight to board and from behind me, I hear, hey Jacob, and I turn around, and there he is. And he says, I saw some of your videos online where you say that you had to get somebody coffee, and needless to say, it was a very, very awkward encounter. But I did find that he's kind of... And by the way, he wasn't like mean to me. He didn't put me down or anything like that but it was an experience that basically showed me that I became very disenfranchised with the corporate world after that, and that's what set me on my current trajectory, my current path doing what I'm doing now.
Wow, amazing story, also amazing to hear about the follow up, and what's happened since. Then clearly shows that one leader can have a huge impact, whether it be negative or positive. So I really appreciate you sharing that story with us.
And also, thank you so much, Jacob Morgan, for joining us today, and thank you all for spending some of your time listening with us. This is Stephanie Neal, reminding you to make every moment of leadership count.
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