The Most Important Leadership Skills of the Future

May 27, 2024

What leaders need to know until 2030

The business world is about to experience a paradigm shift unparalleled in history. In the next six years, key technologies such as quantum computing, AI, cryptocurrencies, the metaverse, and a structural change in the field of sustainability will fundamentally shake companies to the core. Executives who want to keep their business afloat beyond 2030 will be well advised to start preparing for this situation now. Easier said than done, considering that constant crisis management seems to be the order of the day in many enterprises, underlining the need for leadership development focused on resilience and adaptability. Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, and strategy expert Vladimir Preveden analyze what leadership skills are going to make a difference in the future. 

Leadership Skills of the future | WU Executive Academy
Leaders will need many new and established leadership skills to be successful in the future. Image: shutterstock, Andrii Yalanskyi

Change has long been the only constant, and crisis an everyday occurrence: as digitalization and sustainability keep transforming the economy, some challenges loom large in business leaders’ minds, necessitating a leadership style that prioritizes problem-solving and initiative.

Managers thus need to adopt a new approach to their leadership role and radically re-think their established views and leadership skills. And the clock is ticking. “Now is the time for all leaders to spot opportunities provided by the current developments,” Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy, says, highlighting the need for essential leadership skills in seizing opportunities.

These Skills Make a Great Leader

The rapidly changing environment makes it necessary to look at leadership in new ways, starting with the question of who is the best fit for which position. “If somebody has held a job in logistics or marketing for twenty years, they were, in the past, pretty much only eligible for a leading role in these fields,” strategy and sustainability expert Vladimir Preveden explains. In the future, career paths will be based more on the respective person’s skills. “It’s a question of intellectual curiosity, an open mind, agility, empathy, and how a person deals with complexity. Such skills are already essential in today’s business environment, which is characterized by crisis and constant change, and they will continue to rise in importance,” Preveden states.

These 6 leadership skills will therefore be particularly important in the future:

1. Basic Competence for New Technologies

Generative artificial intelligence, quantum computing, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and the metaverse will become a conditio sine qua non. This is not to say that managers need to have a degree in physics or require specialized expertise in a similar field. It’s about their willingness and ability to engage with current technologies and trends and draw adequate conclusions.

Barbara Stöttinger Portrait

Barbara Stöttinger

  • Dean of the WU Executive Academy

Managers must understand the logicalities behind technologies in order to be able to assess potential consequences. To be able to gain this kind of understanding, it is important that they not drown in their daily tasks in order to have some (head) space to think.

2. Sustainability as a Non-Negotiable

Sustainabilityis already having a direct impact on companies, for instance, due to the EU taxonomy and sustainability reporting, necessitating strong decision-making and organizational skills. Managers must look into topics such as the circular economy, energy supply, and biodiversity. Before long, corporate sustainability will not end with the respective company but be expected to extend across the entire supply chain, and for that, preparations must be made now, including the development of leadership skills that make sustainability a core mission. “Managers should not simply wait for regulations to be drafted but proactively seize the opportunities provided by sustainability requirements instead, so that once regulations enter into force, they are already prepared for them,” Preveden says.

Sustainable strategies as an important part of leadership skills | WU Executive Academy
Success without a sustainability strategy basically is not possible anymore – so it is better to act now, than to wait for regulations. Image: shutterstock, Stokkete

3. Social Leadership Qualities: Governance as a Condition

Social concerns are important pillars when it comes to tackling future challenges for the European economy, and leadership traits such as the duty to inform play a crucial role in addressing these concerns. This leadership skill is important for business success to be sustainable in every way and also portrays an essential part of the corporate culture in order to be perceived as an attractive employer, emphasizing active listening and relationship building.

4. Effective Thinking in Ecosystems

“Interdisciplinarity will be a must, as we will be forced to cooperate and think beyond the confines of distinct industries,” Barbara Stöttinger says. Cars, to provide just one example, could be replaced by different kinds of mobility services, including subscription-based models. Such an open mindset ideally takes root in the company as well.

Portrait Vladimir Preveden

Vladimir Preveden

  • Strategy expert

It will take employees from various industries and disciplines, and also from different generations. This results in a creative force for growth in difficult times and an important leadership skill.

5. Communication and Storytelling

More than ever before, managers need communication skills and a knack for telling stories and instilling passion in their listeners. “They must be able to convey, in a clear and transparent way, where the organization is headed.” At the moment, the field of communication is undergoing a “strategic update”. Successful leaders are well advised “to stay authentic and honest. It’s important to say what you want, but also to clearly state what you don’t want,” Preveden specifies.

Leadership skills are based on good communication | WU Executive Academy
Always was, and always will be important: the ability to communicate, to inspire and convince. Image: shutterstock, Ground Picture

6. Regenerative Leadership as the New Maxim

Regenerative management means getting everybody on board and creating a workplace conducive to learning, in which self-management will lead to productivity. “Particularly younger people are eager to contribute their ideas and work in solution-oriented ways,” Preveden shares. Coming up with solutions to the big global challenges has become a strong motivating force for many, also among the older workforce. Purpose, the competency to shape the future together with others, and seeing the added value one’s own work has for others have become central components of successful collaboration today.

Conclusion: These Leadership Skills Matter

Based on the leadership skills mentioned, resilience is increasingly gaining importance as a management essential. It’s about the ability to develop plans that go beyond mere crisis management and include an active approach to tackle future challenges. “Effective leaders must build up reserves now. This can be achieved through increasing margins, decreasing debt, or re-considering dividends. Activating team members to be able to respond in more agile ways and communicating values will play an important role in this process. This is why personal and entrepreneurial resilience will be a central leadership skill for managers looking to benefit from and proactively shape the current paradigm shift,” Stöttinger concludes.

Do you want to develop your leadership skills and prepare yourself for the challenges of the future? WU Executive Academy is at your side with a wide range of continuing education opportunities and leadership trainings. Find out more now!

Update for Leaders

Join 15,000 + professionals and get regular updates on leadership and management topics. Learn something new every time. 

Share this