Many people have a limited view of work. Digging ditches and moving heavy stuff is only a small slice of what work is today. Now we are faced with challenges to complex problems and new technology that is changing everything we used to know. Work in our current economy is the coordination of people to complete a task, and often the end result is not seen.

It is also about leadership and strategic initiatives that are not written in a book of instructions. We have quickly reached a place where managers are a dying breed. And what we need is more leaders.

In my work, I see a crisis of leadership that requires new thinking to address today's challenges. I had a chance to interview one of the most important people in marketing about leadership. Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers like Linchpinand Purple Cow. His work in marketing is often quoted and talked about in circles beyond those in marketing, making much of what he writes applicable to all of those in today's workforce.

The Future of Work

Godin shared with me a dominant thought on the future of work. "If I can tell you exactly what I want you to do today, I can find someone cheaper than you to do it," he says. "People who have a job where they are waiting for instruction are stressed out of their minds because they know they are not going to have that job for long."

This quote strikes to the heart of what is going on in our work. To be clear, the other side of Godin's message is about workers that don't need to be told what to do. They don't need to be motivated to take ownership of their work. They crave it. They become addicted to making change happen in a way that makes them become leaders, not just managers.

Why Human Resource Leaders Need to Make a Major Shift

When Human Resource managers are tasked to developing employees, often there is a prescribed list of skills that need to be taught. And to this day, HR tends to look for programs and teachers that can teach those skills. Then there is a test that proves their competency. The employee gets continuing education credits and quickly gets back to work.

But according to Godin, this model of education comes from the old dynamics of our primary and secondary education that has been ingrained inside of us all. It may have worked once, but our future depends on developing new ways to develop our leaders.

In an aim to change the way people engage with new ideas, Godin and his team have shifted their focus to a project called The altMBA. This is not an MBA replacement. altMBA is more about leadership development for the future of work. After seeing more than 2,500 people go through the altMBA program, Godin and his team have redefined this process. It is a very different approach to learning that breaks much of the old ways.

The new approach to learning has no grades and no teachers -- and that is no problem. When grades become a key focus, people often attempt to learn "what is on the test." Godin's new approach changes the dynamics of learning. Without a focus on grades, students get to focus on the process, not the end result. Also in Godin's new model, teachers are replaced with coaches who pose questions to students that force them to think for themselves. The power of a question changes the whole experience.

Godin saw the need to rethink education to engage others in new skills for the future of work. Here are just three essential skills to become tomorrow's leaders:

  1. Operate with ambiguity - Our leaders must get used to not having all the data at their fingertips. They must be able to see beyond the data, as the future of work will require more than analytical skills such as soft skills like empathy or emotional intelligence.
  2. Increase critical thinking - This means that leaders will make hard choices and fail often. An increased capacity of critical thinking will allow our leaders to create the needed breakthroughs.
  3. Make change happen - The future of leadership means that new ways of innovation are necessary. It is not going to happen without new levels of coordination of people.

"Teaching leadership involves helping people seek out responsibility so that they have a chance to enroll people to make a change happen. That is an essential part." Godin adds. If you are eager to lead in the future of work, you must see seek out projects that don't include a list of instructions so you can create your path.

Published on: Jun 21, 2018