Is your leadership and management team fully prepared for the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

According to the World Economic Forum (2016, 2020) we are in The Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is driven by artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems. For instance, in the case of artificial intelligence we already experience drones, real-time package tracking, virtual voice assistance, self-driving cars, and Smart TV’s connected to the Internet around us.

Emerging Technologies

Nowadays, we have unlimited possibilities to connect with other people all over the world by smart phones or tablets, and have unlimited access to knowledge, information and data from the Internet. All made possible by emerging technologies in our daily life and work such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, quantum computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and cyber-physical systems (CPS). Above all, we see a major technological shift from simple digitization (e.g. scanning a photograph or a digital copy of a historical document on a computer) to innovation based on combinations and fusion of artificial intelligence (e.g. smartphones or speech recognition), and cyber-physical systems (e.g. airbag deployment systems in cars or manufacturing and logistics robotics).

Impact on education & training

As a result, these technological innovations have a major impact on businesses, organizations and employees who are forced to re-evaluate the way they operate. Moreover, this shift fosters disruptive digital business models, digital transformation, and change production processes. These changes can cause businesses to re-exam which skill sets are needed for the next generations of leadership and management. Consequently, it raises the question if your leadership and management team is fully prepared for the Fourth Industrial Revolution of AI, CPS, Robotics, Digital transformation, Automation, or more?

Leadership challenges

It is a necessity that businesses and organizations stay on top of the latest technological advancements through ongoing education and training. Often it is said that education and training are worth nothing if you are not able to apply the new and relevant knowledge, skills, and develop capabilities on the job. The so-called transfer skill gap. How do you quickly adapt in response to such advancements? The following steps can help identify and determine the most critical leadership skills, knowledge and capabilities. Moreover, it can help attract and keep your leadership & management team motivated.

Understand implications emerging technologies

The first step is that leaders and managers need to understand these emerging technologies, its implications and impact on themselves and their multi-generational workforce. It is also important to know how these technologies are reshaping the economic, social and cultural environment; for example, the quality of education, social networks and employment security. In addition, they need to be able to analyse and understand enormous information and data. Furthermore, knowing how to make use of it to improve employee engagement and job performance while operating in a digital and highly disruptive business environment is especially important.

Community stakeholders’ alliances

Secondly, the world has become more-and-more transparent, so leaders and managers have to change their mindset towards a perspective of community stakeholders’ alliance. This is because employees, customers, board of directors, government agencies, suppliers and vendors, and investors have unlimited access to information and data, and their expectations are changing dramatically. It requires that modern leadership balance the ability to leverage technology and interpret data, but also acquire specific skills such as critical thinking, emotional and social intelligence skills. This means that businesses and organizations have to consider an approach to build a healthy and effective leadership pipeline with the necessary knowledge, skills and capabilities to understand community stakeholders’ alliances and to lead in the digital era.

Importance of leadership and management core skill set  

Thirdly, in business and organizations there must be an increasing awareness and buy-in on the need for change management as a core skill set. Inevitably, deep change management expertise and change leadership skills will be seen as necessary to drive adaptation in today’s disruptive and highly dynamic business environment. Further, leadership and management need to learn additional specific skills and behaviours, such as adaptive thinking (the ability to respond to unique unexpected circumstances), proactive people management (able to use a personal approach and communication skills to develop team members), computational thinking (able to filter and make sense of vast amount of information and data), and effectively timely feedback. Fostering sense of belonging and welfare for each employee and the ability to blend different kind of leadership styles to achieve business objectives and goals are equally important.

Take your own action

To sum up, being prepared to lead and manage in the Age of the Fourth Industrialization Revolution is about a paradox and adaptive mindset; one open to forming alliances, dealing with competing demands and expectations, and being receptive to new ideas. Perhaps the best response to the leadership challenges is to ensure that tomorrow’s leaders and managers are adaptable, aware of their biases, and capable of tuning in and connecting with changing views of reality.

Floyd Mac Donald is the founder and principal at Mac Donald Consultancy. We inspire and train clients to use an integrated and multi-perspective approach. In combination with a paradox and adaptive mind-set and our integrated services to identify and solve clients challenges, and achieve business enhancement effectively.

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