New research highlights 6 key skills needed by all future leaders


When we asked 20 senior leaders what skills and attributes future leaders will need to succeed, there were some surprising common themes.

To ensure the findings had broad scope, we had spoken to leaders from a range of sectors (including manufacturing, engineering, industrial and construction) across private, listed and private equity backed businesses, with turnovers ranging from less than £20m to more than £1bn.

Key findings that came through strongly were around the importance of emotional intelligence and technical aptitude and agility. In short, if business leaders in the manufacturing and industrial sectors are unable to tap into their emotional intelligence and communicate better, there will be no place for them in the boardroom. Future leaders must also be adept at networking, able to embrace technological change, and value corporate social responsibility.

It’s clear from our research that the old models of leadership assessment are no longer fit for purpose. Over the next few years we will undoubtedly see huge shifts in the personality traits and leadership skills required to succeed, and this report shines a light on what they are.

I’ve grouped the common findings together to compile this list of six key skills and attributes that are needed by leaders to ensure continued development of their organisations.

Key aspects of new leadership skills and roles

(1) Self awareness

Good leaders need to be self-aware and have excellent clarity of thinking in order to understand themselves and others. This is a common trait of introverts, discussed in our recent Bashful bosses can succeed blog post.

(2) Emotional intelligence

They must have strong emotional intelligence, a trait often associated with women. (Read our recent blog on Gender equality: why more women on the board makes sense.) The emotional side of leadership will continue to grow in importance – some of the best ideas will evolve from the bottom up – and it takes a leader that can listen, place value on new ideas, evaluate and accept elements of risk, whilst using their own experience to commercialise them.

(3) Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Brand values, authenticity and ethics are often cited as being increasingly important in purchase decisions, particularly for the younger generation. Leaders of the future must therefore genuinely live and breathe all of the core values of genuine corporate social responsibility.

(4) Embracing technology

Technology, and the ability to embrace it, is another vital quality that the leaders of the future must have according to the report. World-class leaders have to relish what the younger, tech-savvy generation brings to a business. It’s not something that can simply be delegated, the best future leaders must be open minded to new technological solutions, but crucially, understand them too.

(5) Inspiring young people

An appreciation of what the next generation can bring to a business – both through their ideas and technological advances – is critical for future leaders. Great leaders need to appreciate that they don’t know it all, they must be hungry to keep learning and emotionally intelligent enough to understand that other people will only share their ideas if there is a real open platform for them to do that within a business – and this is something that has to come from the top. 

(6) Employee engagement

The best leaders must engage with all their employees, industry associates and professionals from the wider business environment, and really listen to them, if they want to see long-term value and commercial success.

Using the findings as a benchmark for a new world-class leadership model, we are incorporating these findings into our selection processes, in order to help develop world-class leaders of the future. The new model we are developing brings together all the cross-sector common themes. It will therefore be applicable to those working in construction, the built environment and consumer sectors including food and drink, packaging and non-food FMCG.

Click here to download the ‘World Class Leader Report’ for FREE from our website.

If you’d like to find out more about our new assessment tool, or discuss our executive search and selection recruitment services, you can contact us online or call 0113 487 9300.

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Infographic: What does World Class Leadership look like?

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