Tealeaf Leadership… Is this the future of work?

By Sonia Tallarida

The rise of intuitive technology means that psychic leadership will soon be a necessity for an engaged workforce. Think Tesla, the Internet of Things or your newest ‘can’t-live-without’ apps… technology is forcing a revolution in exactly the opposite way than most might expect.

Have you test driven a Tesla yet? If you haven’t… do it! They are the most incredible experience. What I love about these cars is not just the magical ride, but their ability to upgrade as easily as your iPhone does; that they can (theoretically) run on clean solar power; that they can actually ‘learn’ what you want and have everything ready for you when you get in the car – like the heater on at exactly 21 degrees; and the probability that they will convert to “driverless” with an upgrade over the internet in the near future… can you even conceive the impact this will have on our everyday lives? Imagine all the extra time liberated? This car is part of the next wave, machines-that-learn. Lumps of inanimate materials loaded with technology that intelligently upgrades and understands what you want.

We’re seeing this evolution with the Internet of Things – as we link our lights, security, heating, travel planning, dental appointments and food delivery to a seamless, integrated platform on our precious mobile device (maybe a nano-chip implanted in your finger? No?).

This is big change, at the rate of knots. For some it’s exhilarating; for others, it’s a bit creepy to watch on as all our personal habits, wants and needs become integrated and available data, tracked by someone somewhere, with apps that learn about our preferences. Whichever way the coin falls for you, it’s change, and it’s coming. What I’m thinking about is how does this change impact the future of leadership?

How often have you heard someone mutter words to the effect of “with all this connection to devices, people will soon become obsolete”? I hear it a lot, but I don’t agree. Yes, it’s true that many simple jobs can now be done by artificial, learning intelligence. Jobs like uber and taxi drivers will become obsolete as self-driven cars become the norm. But with the rise of new jobs and focus areas (such as upgrading the power grid to allows us to generate and share solar electricity) and the increased reliance on intuitive technology that knows what you want before you even need to ask, something new is bound to happen. People will start to expect that their social interactions, at home, and at work, will step up a notch. A couple of outcomes are possible and here’s what I reckon they might be…

1)     Less communication with higher expectations…

People will become inclined to communicate less, but expect others to understand them more.

After all, if a smart watch can predict a heart attack simply by monitoring the wearer’s blood pressure and send them to a doctor 3 months before it happens (we actually have clients trialling this right now – this technology is here, now!) –isn’t it reasonable to expect that the people closest to her will also notice what’s happening internally for her? Our expectations will evolve in unison with our changing environment and we’ll naturally come to expect that others will anticipate our needs, without having to actually communicate them. Human-oriented technology is likely to increase our desire for others to get in our heads and hearts – because we will become so used to anticipatory action.

For leaders this means the skill of emotional intelligence (being able to read the emotional landscape and responses of people when they are being expressed in even a most micro way) – will become a highly prized skill. Leaders who can’t anticipate, notice and respond actively and quickly, will not succeed. Imagine the impact on recruitment, performance management, and leadership training if we were to prepare our leaders to be more deeply emotional and intuitive?

2) More leadership think, less do…

People will expect leaders to lead their thinking and adaptive responses more than their doing.

In the past, leaders have often arisen from the ranks, they’re chosen as the ones who’ve ‘been there, done that’, the ones who could demonstrate deep knowledge or mentorship. But this is a brave new world, and no one has been there before.

The future of leadership will demand leaders who can best help their teams manage their adaptive responses, identify mindsets that limit or stretch , and set up new ways of thinking that allow people to thrive in the changing environment, rather than simply survive it. Sounds a bit like therapy, right? Well, in a way, it is, but it’s way beyond current therapy… this is a leadership style where we are almost reprogramming the mind and body to be better aligned with flexibility, where we need to ask challenging and stretching questions and have the ability to confront people honestly, with just the right amount of tension for growth, but not so much they retreat into defensive routines.

Leaders of the future will need deep coaching skills, and the ability to understand the way the mind and emotions work to create or destroy resilience. Leaders who can’t shift thinking won’t be successful.

So, it’s time to get out those crystal balls and tea leaves – the technology revolution is going to lead us to a whole new future of work. It’s a future where heart, intuition, reading patterns and understanding the emotional landscape will define real leaders, on a whole new level.


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