Keep up with the partners

Gustin Partners | July 21, 2016 |

What Will Leadership Look Like in 2030?

By Thornton May
Futurist, Senior Advisor with GP, Executive Director & Dean - IT Leadership Academy

Everyone knows that things change. Many realize that EVERYTHING changes. The deeper thinkers among us notice that things change at different rates. I recently work-shopped with 150+ CXOs asking how they thought leadership would change over the next fifteen years. I specifically asked, “what will leadership look like in 2030”?

The Future is Not a “Throw Away”
Many of the queried CXOs had careers spanning thirty-plus years. Their initial reaction to my question regarding leadership in 2030 was, “Oh, I will be retired,” "I will be dead," or “I will be on a beach sipping drinks with umbrellas.”

It turns out that it is not just tribal elders/folks nearing the end of their official work lives paying scant attention to leadership in the future. Most executives, independent of when they were born typically don’t think in ten-plus-year increments. I think this has to change. I think organizations need to take proactive steps to make sure that they have a leadership pipeline.

A Spot Market for Leaders/Leadership-as-a-Service?
The cerebrally friskier members of the workshop provocatively argued that we really don’t have to worry about “leaders” or “leadership” in 2030. There will be an app for that. More specifically they argued, a board of directors could go on-line, type or voice-in their leadership requirements and a list of candidates with suitable qualifications for that particular situation would appear.

The New York Times ran a piece detailing the exponential increase in technology-enabled services to do just about anything [e.g. send someone to fill your car with gas, send a valet, wherever you are, to park your car, film anything you desire with a drone, pack your suitcase — virtually, deliver a new toothbrush head to your mailbox every three months, deliver your beer right to your door, and alert you if your fly is down. Why not leadership-as-a-service?

Alternatively, a board of directors could approach nextgen service firms and contract out their leadership needs. Instead of BPO – business process outsourcing, this is ERO – executive role outsourcing.

From this point the provocateurs argued, it is not that far a leap to imagine turning the whole shebang of leadership over to “increasingly capable machines” [the term of Richard and Daniel Susskind in The Future of the Professions].

What do readers think the probability of atomization/commoditization/robotization of leadership is? The CXO group gave this digitalization of leadership a 30% probability of happening by 2030.

Leadership Latency
One of the questions the CXO group kicked around was “how long does it take to train/develop a leader?” Currently the professional latency of a doctor approximates fourteen years [four years of college, four years of medical school, and residencies and fellowships that last between three and eight years]. How many years of on the job training does it take to create a great doctor?

A traditional Masters of Business Administration [MBA] requires six years [for years of college and two years in business school].

How long does it take your organization to build a leader?


One Boston Place
Boston, MA 02108

Phone: (617) 419-7144


42 Berkeley Square
London W1J 5AW, UK

Phone: 44(0)20.7318.0860
Fax:     44(0)20.7318.0862