What Leadership Looks Like in 2034

Workplace leadership has changed enormously in the past generation. There is far less top-down, command-and-control leadership, and greater flexibility. Leaders are more highly trained and give greater attention to human resources. How will leadership continue to change and evolve in the next generation?

Bernard M. Bass was one of the foremost leadership scholars, with a career that spanned 7 decades. In 1967, he was asked by the American Management Association to speculate what management/leadership would look like in the year 2000. Remarkably, most of his predictions came true. For example, in 1967, Bernie foresaw that managers would make daily use of computers in analysis and decision making (he did not foresee the invention of personal computers, but assumed leaders would be connected to mainframes). He also predicted that leaders would have to adapt to workers with greater knowledge and skill and desire more challenging work. He also predicted tremendous growth in leadership training and development. All of these predictions came to pass.

In 2001, Bernie made predictions for the year 2034. Here are some of his predictions:

  • Leadership development efforts will continue, with ongoing training a requirement for leaders (much of the training will be web-based)
  • Second careers will become commonplace, as will 85-year-old employees.
  • Women will become the majority of leaders and directors in most organizations (he argued that this is due to their more transformational qualities and greater concern for equity, fairness, and social justice)
  • Leaders will make regular use of artificial intelligence to aid in decision making.
  • Biotechnology and genetics will play a part in both understanding leadership and in leader selection
  • We will "outgrow" bureaucracies, and most organizations will be flexible and mission-driven
  • With technological advancements, it will be much more difficult for dishonest leaders to emerge in organizations and greater transparency in organizational operations will be the norm.
  • Virtual work (e.g., virtual teams; web-based collaboration) will be the rule rather than the exception.
As we enter into 2011 it is clear that many of Bernard's predictions are already true and more moving that way. 

Bernard M. Bass (2002). Forecasting Organizational Leadership: From Back (1967) to the Future (2034). In Bruce J. Avolio & Francis J. Yammarino (Eds.), "Transformational and Charismatic Leadership: The Road Ahead." Elsevier, Oxford, UK.


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