3 Imperatives for Intentional Leadership in a Shifting Workforce Landscape

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 03 October 2023 00:00

Leadership and the workforce is at a time of notable metamorphosis as Baby Boomers slowly but surely leave the workforce and the younger generations, including Millennials and Gen Z, bring about a true wave of professional digital transformation.

Given the recent presence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current landscape of rapid disruption and change, the demand for Anticipatory Leadership is more crucial than ever. It is essential to guide this emerging workforce effectively both in the present and future.

I had the distinct opportunity to speak with a good friend of mine, Mark Sanborn, in a recent Opportunity Hour: Conversations with the Masters. Throughout our discussion, we delved into the transformations that the work landscape has undergone both in the lead-up to and during the pandemic. We also explored strategies for effectively leading the workforce of the future.

With the increasing frequency of global disruptions and the anticipation of more to come, the nature of work is evolving, reshaping our work practices. Mark explores these changes and the actions leaders should take now in his books and articles, his keynote speeches, and in our recent interview.

The Need to Have Intention

A leading concept that is emerging in the professional world today, a subject area that Mark has studied in great detail, is the role that intention plays in successful leadership and fostering a successful and significant organization. Many leaders today are unintentional, or their intentions are not shared clearly throughout the entire organization, which creates a disjointed and unproductive workforce.

Unfortunately, this disjointedness is especially detrimental regarding the multiple generations that currently exist in the workforce, as older generations may not interpret certain directions in the same way younger generations do and vice versa.

In Mark’s latest book, The Intentional Imperative, he calls out intentionality as the irreducible minimum. The need to be crystal clear with your team and take consistent and correct action every day to achieve organizational goals is, without question, a strategic imperative that must not be overlooked. However, intentionality is not something that is left only to the top executives; it must be a shared focus throughout the entire organization and every department.

As profound as the pandemic has been in reshaping the way we work, Mark has identified three essential mandates that every leader must grasp to ensure that their company’s purpose and overall influence remain in harmony. These are not mere recommendations or optional actions; they are absolute necessities! Let’s delve deeper into these imperatives:

Imperative 1: Shift from Structure to Culture

It was not an org chart or strict discipline that got workers through the coronavirus pandemic, it was a culture of banding together and working together. It was the focus on values, common teachings, and common philosophies that guided us.

Culture is everything workers think and believe about an organization and their role in it, and their belief and alignment with the culture results in what they aspire to and what the organization achieves as a whole, no matter what generation they are part of. While products, services, and processes can be copied by the competition in some fashion, culture cannot, making it a powerful strategic weapon.

Culture isn’t a random occurrence; rather, it’s something that requires deliberate construction. Therefore, it’s crucial to intentionally cultivate a company culture. Don’t make hiring decisions solely based on an individual’s qualifications or job role. While someone may meet all the technical requirements, if they don’t align with the company culture, it can impede progress and even dampen morale. Purposefully emphasize the creation of strong and enduring relationships founded on trust, values, honesty, integrity, and the consistent fulfillment of commitments.

Imperative 2: Shift from Motivation to Inspiration

Moving back to the discussion of the multigenerational workforce, Mark described his earlier years in the corporate world as one based on economical motivation — trying to make more money and increase his financial status. I myself was motivated in a similar fashion, and suffice it to say, most Baby Boomers were and still are as well.

But with Baby Boomers retiring and Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, and even younger generations eventually making up the majority of the workforce, this strategy is no longer a solely sufficient motivator.

Of course, fair monetary compensation is still an absolute necessity; however, studies have shown that younger workers would rather do work with purpose and significance behind it than be recognized by their employer or do work that is solely based on financial stability. They seek out inspiration and purpose, to know that their individual roles have an impact and are a benefit to the entire company, industry, and humankind.

During our interview, Mark emphasized the importance of being intentional about taking an individual’s work and connecting it to a bigger purpose, and demonstrate to them how it serves a greater good. Focus on inclusion and showing employees how their job interacts with and directly impacts others in a positive way. What this also leads to is a meshing of different viewpoints, opinions, and ideas—the necessary components of innovation.

During our conversation, Mark likened this to the Marines. No Marine thinks of themselves as just a pilot, as just a commander on the ground, or as just a communications specialist. Every person knows how they and every one of their comrades’ individual roles benefit the entire unit and how it creates safety for everyone.

Imperative 3: Shift from Experience to Emotion

Finally, emotion is a powerful tool with both your customers and your employees. For instance, drivers do not traditionally talk about cars they like, but ones they love! They do not recommend restaurants they merely enjoyed or ones that disappointed them, but ones they loved

To become a genuine Anticipatory Leader and what Mark describes as an intentional leader, design and deliver a positive emotion around both your products and services. What do you want customers to be saying about your organization? What do you want customers to be feeling when they interact with your product or customer service team? Reverse engineer it and determine what you want the emotion to be, and design your strategy around that.

Tips to Become a More Intentional Leader and Organization

Becoming more intentional and prompting your workforce to entertain a more Anticipatory Mindset does not have to be a huge undertaking. Here are just a few steps to become an intentional leader and organization: 

Check Relevance – Some organizations continue doing something that worked in the past even though it no longer works in the present. While there is importance to the wisdom of the past, leaders must constantly be checking on what is relevant so that you too remain relevant. This is where the multigenerational workforce really comes into play. Combine the wisdom of the older generations with the technological knowledge of younger ones to become dynamically relevant.

Check Your Speed and Direction – Imagine driving the completely wrong way on a road trip but going twice as fast as you would if you were going the right way. You get farther away from your destination much faster. You may be moving ahead at an alarming rate, but are you moving in the right direction? Are you making the correct decisions? Speed means nothing if you are not going in the right direction for your goals.

Learn to Fail Fast – Failing itself isn’t the critical factor; what truly matters is the opportunity to gain insights from failure. Embrace the concept of Learning to fail fast, for in doing so, you accelerate your learning curve while quickly recovering from setbacks. The only truly detrimental mistake is one from which you fail to extract valuable lessons.

Both Mark Sanborn and I believe that if you simply choose just one area of focus a day that slowly chips away at a much bigger problem, this will create a better company culture, more in-tune emotion, and inspire all who work with you.

Addressing numerous small issues will ultimately lead to something substantial. However, the crucial element is to maintain absolute clarity within your team and execute deliberate, consistent actions to establish a lasting presence in your industry.

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Daniel Burrus

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Disruptive Innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus.

He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.

He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, using his Anticipatory Business Model to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. He has delivered over 3,000 keynote speeches worldwide. 

He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Flash Foresight, and his latest best selling book The Anticipatory Organization, and he is a syndicated writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of technology driven trends, disruptive innovation, and exponential change. 

Burrus is an innovative entrepreneur who has founded six businesses, four of which were U.S. national leaders in the first year.   His accurate predictions date back to the early 1980s where he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty exponential technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic growth for decades to come. Since then, he has continued to establish a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of predicting the future of technology driven change and its direct impact on the business world.


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