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What will be critical to successful leadership in the future? That was the question posed to me and four other authors (Ken Blanchard, Marshall Goldsmith, Jim Kouzes, and Jack Zenger) as panelists this past week at the American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Expo.

From my own consulting experience and from responses on surveys and studies from CEOs themselves as to what they see on the horizon, critical skills for leaders of the future will be:

  • creativity
  • communicating collaboratively with customers
  • communicating quickly in their own operations

It’s not that organizations aren’t creative now. It’s just that by definition, creativity is an ongoing thing. What’s new today is old tomorrow.

These skills all require a focus on listening to your client, … synthesizing what you hear and analyzing the trends, … articulating that to your team, … deciding how to respond, … and then collaborating with employees on how to make things happen.

That’s why communication landed somewhere in the top 3 slots in all the CEO surveys (done by American Management Association, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM). If you focus on creativity and envision a new opportunity or product or service, you have to communicate it to either your own team internally or your suppliers to execute the vision.

And then the speed and flexibility in operating as an organization demands that we communicate cross-functionally in the most efficient way. That we know what information to pass on and what to discard. That we can run an effective meeting. That we’re responsive when customers ask questions or have concerns.

A recent Harvard Business Review article (March 2011) reported that organizations who respond to inquiries within the hour were 7 times as likely to qualify that lead as those who took longer than an hour to respond. They were 60 times more likely to qualify a lead than those organizations that took more than 24 hours to respond. How did companies do? More than a third (37 percent) do respond within the hour. Another 16 percent respond within 24 hours. But almost one-fourth (23 percent) don’t respond at all!

So leading people to be creative and then to communicate collaboratively and quickly with both clients and employees to get the job done will be the game of the future—possibly the only game in town.

2 thoughts on “Communication Challenges for Leaders of the Future—Part 1: Surveys Say …”

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