Empowering the next generation of leaders:
The need for strong leaders will never disappear, and now, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we empower the next generation of leaders at every level and age. In the next five years, 84% of organisations anticipate a shortfall in leaders, according to Infopro Learning. The same report found that 83% of organisations say it’s important to develop leaders at all levels. That should be 100%.
It’s on us as leaders—at every organisation, and in all industries—to set up the next generation of leaders for success. Below are three ways that you can empower the leaders of tomorrow, from today’s youth to adults in the workplace, by providing interaction and mentoring, cultivating teamwork and collaboration, and giving and receiving effective feedback.
Providing interaction and mentoring
It can be hard to become what you can’t see. Awareness of diverse leaders and leadership styles can transform younger perspectives. To help them with this awareness, leaders can start by being an active participant in their growth, and engaging with them personally. Interactions can happen in a variety of ways— volunteering for local community events, speaking at schools or universities, and participating at conferences or career days, to name a few. When strong leaders interact with their communities, students and young professionals can clearly see different forms of success and leadership.
But leading by example isn’t just local. There are leaders that have found ways to engage audiences through more global and national platforms. For example, Bozoma Saint John, chief brand officer at Uber, makes it easy for younger generations to follow her work on social platforms like Instagram. She uses the hashtag #watchmework to inspire young professionals by showing what she does on a day-to-day basis, and what it takes to be successful. Getting out in the community and interacting with young professionals across multiple mediums is crucial in helping them realise their potential—because it’s incredibly hard to envision your own path if you don’t see examples of strong leadership being lived daily.
Interaction is just one part of transforming younger perspectives—mentorship is another important building block. Being a mentor is a long-term commitment to the development and growth of any individual by providing constant support and feedback. In her book, “Radical Candor,” Liz Wiseman writes on the long-term nature of being a mentor: “Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”
A Stanford Business study found that 80% of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. I can attest to this firsthand. Several mentors have been instrumental in my career, including Kevin Lynch, VP of technology at Apple and former Adobe CTO; Josh James, Omniture co-founder and Domo CEO; and Brett Error, former Omniture CTO. Although they each have different leadership styles, they are all passionate about enabling customer success, building innovative products, and doing good for our world. Their influence has absolutely shaped my leadership style and set a benchmark for a long-term commitment in my growth, lasting long after our years working together.
Cultivating teamwork and collaboration
The leaders of tomorrow will face ever-changing team structures, with more remote workers and more diverse skill sets than ever before. This means ensuring that the next generation has the opportunity to interact and collaborate in the classroom and the workplace. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, companies are more likely to consider a job candidate who has participated in an internship, senior project, collaborative research project, field-based project in a diverse community setting with people from different backgrounds, or a community-based project.
Programs like the FIRST LEGO League are a great example of blending social and communication skills with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. The interactions and competitions empower the next generation of leaders by teaching them how to collaborate and giving them a chance to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts to solve a problem. Guided by adult coaches (which is another great example of ways to engage in the
community!), FIRST LEGO League teams work together to research and develop a solution for a real-world problem, such as food safety, energy, or recycling. They also design, build, and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology, and then compete on a tabletop playing field. In fact, a few FIRST LEGO League team members have turned into some of our best Domo interns, their experience with FIRST LEGO League directly transferring into relevant workplace skills.
It’s not just about building team-oriented character and collaboration skills in education, it’s also important to continue encouraging collaboration once people enter the workplace. Edwin Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, has a unique ability to create environments where open communication promotes increased creativity and risk-taking. In his book, “Creativity Inc.”, he describes how enabling teams to exercise full creativity helps produce artistic and market-leading triumphs, saying:
“If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse.”
Edwin Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios
Giving and receiving effective feedback
Mentoring and collaboration aren’t possible without learning how to give and receive effective feedback. Constructive feedback may be hard for some to hear, and may be hard for some to give, but it’s essential to growth. In fact, only 29% of employees say they “always” know whether their performance is where it should be, and that’s alarming. We need to ensure our future leaders have the confidence and ability to ask for and give feedback in a genuine way.
Renowned filmmaker George Lucas once said, “Mentors have a way of seeing more of our faults than we would like. It’s the only way we grow.” As an engaged leader, you’ll encounter any number of situations where you’ll likely see opportunities for feedback and improvement. Liz Wiseman’s “Radical Candor” offers several tips on giving (and receiving) constructive feedback, noting that you should “communicate clearly enough so that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly.” My personal belief is that the “humbly” portion is truly important in sharing clear and specific feedback, as it immediately helps the recipient recognise your long-term commitment to their success.
As future leaders learn how to give and receive quality feedback, their ability to lead will increase, and as a result, the success of their company will improve as well. Leaders who ranked at the bottom 10% in asking for feedback were rated at the 15th percentile in overall leadership effectiveness. On the other hand, leaders who ranked in the top 10% in asking for feedback were rated, on average, at the 86th percentile in effectiveness.
There are a myriad of skills and development opportunities needed for career growth, but it is most vital that we provide mentorship, cultivate collaboration for a global workplace, and equip individuals to both give and receive feedback effectively. These skills empower leaders to not only be financially and technically successful, but to become mission-driven, transformative leaders.
The future is bright. When I see the rising talent in our communities and companies, I’m filled with hope and excitement. I have immense gratitude for those who helped shape me and my career—no one is on an island; we have all been shaped and mentored by those that came before us, just as the next generation will shape and mentor those that come after them. We have an opportunity to pay it forward to the next generation of leaders.
Author: Catherine Wong