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What is the Crucial Skill for Tomorrows Leaders


Harvard Business School asked 8 leadership experts to answer the question: "What is the single most important skill that the leaders of the future will need?" 

  1. Dr. Angel Cabrera (President, Thunderbird School of Global Management)
    Build and preserve trust.
  2. Bill George (Professor, Harvard Business School)
    Find their authentic self. (Self-Awareness)
  3. Daisy Wademan Dowling (Executive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley)
    Empathy and relentless desire to build capacity in the people around them.
  4. Andy Zelleke (Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School)
    Devotion to the interest of others.
  5. Batia Mishan Wiesenfeld (Professor, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, NYU)
    When giving direction, get into the habit of explaining why.
  6. Evan Wittenberg (Head of Global Leadership Development, Google Inc.)
  7. Dr. Ellen Langer (Professor, Harvard University)
    Becoming more mindful.
  8. Scott Snook (Associate Professor, Harvard Business School)
    Clear sense of their purpose.

What is the Crucial Skill in the Future?

We have previously argued that the number one responsibility of a leader is trust.

But what about the most crucial skill in THE FUTURE?

Is it still all about trust in 5, 10 or 50 years?

What about the other core leadership skills: Integrity, Vision, Passion, Empathy, Self-Awareness and Interpersonal Skills?

And with the arrival of new technologies and globalisation, other skills are becoming increasingly more important such as Creativity, Innovation, Tech-Savviness and Adaptability.

Which is most crucial?

It terms of a defining a leadership skill, we would have to agree with Angel Cabrera when she says "to build and preserve trust." Sorry to be boring again!

Even though trust is a timeless story, it's becoming increasingly more relevant (and valuable). Never at any other point in history has the ability to harness the energy in trust been so important for business leaders. When leaders try to persuade the workforce "join our cause, work for us, follow me, follow us!" or when they try to convince their customers "buy from us, invest in us, choose me, choose us!" — trust is the currency in which people will ultimately buy or reject those messages.

"I contend that the ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is not only vital to our personal and interpersonal well-being; it is the key leadership competency of the new global economy."

— Stephen M. R. Covey 

Trust is not just part of the bricks and mortar of leadership — it is the foundation. Without it, no other skill is going to matter. With it, leaders have the room to leverage all of their other strengths. With trust in mind, the leader has a more self-awareness, a heightened sense of concern for others, more motivation to practice empathy, and they will ultimately be forced to pay greater attention to how all of their behaviours impact those around them.

Into the foreseeable future, the ability to develop trust gives the leader the most bang for her buck, which is why we think it is going to continue to be the most crucial skill for tomorrow's leaders.

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."

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