Six Traits of Future Leaders: Do You Have Them?

by | Apr 1, 2014

Generational change, technology disruption and shifting expectations of the workforce are pushing some leadership skills into quicksand as others find a foothold. These well-grounded leaders of the future are more relational, adaptable and self-aware. They think, feel, and act. They understand that intelligence comes from more than just the brain.

Future leaders embody self-mastery and will have an ability to cut through the noise of pervasive and sometimes invasive information to core issues. Future leaders, even more so than today, are influencers, collaborators, communicators, and listeners. New ways to connect that are constantly “on” require leaders to be networked relationship builders. (I recommend following Graeme Codrington who writes and speaks about the future world of work (

Are you developing the six traits of future leaders?

Communicators. Future leaders excel at listening. They seek out and hear to all sides of an issue. “Listening” embraces social media and virtual interactions even as the value of face-to-face communication has a resurgence. They hear much and simplify input into information that can be easily communicated. Short paragraphs and shorter attention spans mean leaders must master clear, simple messages. As one of the leaders in my interviews said, “It might be the right decision but if I can’t explain it, I can’t sell it.”

Relationship Builders. Future leaders are skilled at developing relationships for collaboration and partnering. They develop and use their networks, real and virtual, to make connections, nurture contacts and build trust. They bring authenticity to their interactions.

Influencers. In the future and increasingly today, influence is the new control. Future leaders understand the value of influence and know how to use their relationship, communication and listening skills to inform and sway discussions, opinions and outcomes.

Generational connectors. Future leaders adeptly manage the changing workforce and generational clashes. They adapt the workplace for more older workers (the labor force participation rate of 65 to 69 year-olds increased from 21.8% in 2010 to 30.8% in 2012[1]) who are thrown together with younger workers with inherently different values and viewpoints. They also Visit websites and read resources that will help them learn more about how to adapt to the rapidly changing economy and workforce so they always have the upper hand. They create a workplace that takes advantage of the collaborative leadership styles of women.

Nurturers of meaning. Future leaders help employees find work that is personally meaningful and that creates a positive work/life fit. These leaders appreciate that younger workers want to contribute to something bigger that is in alignment with their values. Both women and men expect to have a career and a fulfilling home life, and are willing to change jobs to get it.

Masters of Self. Above all else, leaders in the future will be masters of self. Effective communication, collaboration and relationship building requires self-awareness, self-confidence and empathetic, sensitive leadership. These leaders know their values, stay centered, and are keen observers of their own behaviors and motivations.

Leaders of the future embrace understand that intelligence is a function of the brain and the entire neurological system. They are open to and use their feelings to guide complex decision-making. They think, feel and act. Shouldn’t you?

[1] Rampell, Catherine. Older, but Not Yet Retired., 2013.


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Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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