Shaping the Future : Leadership 2020

Great Leaders of the future will be adaptable, empowering, diverse, customer focussed and emotionally intelligent. These were the conclusions from a meeting of 20 MBA graduates (South West Alumni Network) hosted by the Open Business School and run by Paul Maisey of Buffin Leadership International.

After discussing known trends such as economic globalisation, demographic changes and the impact of technology the group went on to create their own model of what great leadership would be like in 2020. Below is the list of key areas - for current leaders to consider for their future development !!

1. Adaptable
- Able to respond to change at different speeds
- Uses different approaches in different situations
- Focuses more on a creative mindset than processes
- Less risk averse and willing to fail ( learn )

2. Empowering
- Will encourage leadership behaviours at all levels of organisation
- General style will be participative and coaching based
- Major focus on increasing teams knowledge base
- Collaborative working across teams and organisations
- Relationships built on listening and trust

3. Diverse
- Welcomes ideas from all cultures
- Inclusive working practices irrespective of gender , background etc
- Explores opportunities in dispersed way of working ( international )
- Utilizes blends of experience and innovation

4. Customer focussed

- Open to different approaches for different markets ( globally )
- Customer centric in structure and accountability
- Will involve customers in generating solutions to their needs
- A flexible and highly responsive ethos
- Will use Information Technologies to connect with wide range of customers

5. Emotionally Intelligent
- Values driven , intuitive leadership style
- Humble ( learns from mistakes and recognises others knowledge )
- Able to engage people in clear Vision
- Uses humour and emotions to draw on teams strengths

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Comment by John Harrison Thurlbeck on February 20, 2011 at 6:06

Hi Paul


Thank you for the helpful post! If these MBA students thought this for 2020 I wonder what their analysis would be for great leadership in the modern day? I'd have argued that great leaders should now be displaying these traits, skills and characteristics! I'd also make a much greater emphasis on the strength of their learning power and their capacity to develop their learning. It is maybe implicit in some of their comments but I'd be making it critical to their capacity to really lead!


You might also like to draw some comparisons with the Slide Share I have on my LinkedIn site, which I wrote in 1996 as part of my MSc in Manager and Organisation Development. Some very similar components are present on

It was however very good to see that the students were thinking much more about transformational facets of leadership than transactional!


Thanks once again for the post


Kind regards



Comment by paul maisey on December 11, 2009 at 7:23
Penny , excellent challenge ! See thoughts below from 22 L&D practitioners
Learning and Development professionals need to focus on six key areas to ensure they drive company performance , according to a recent meeting of the forum ( a group of 22 L&D professionals ) . Creative Problem Solving is core followed by adaptive learning processes, people engagement , results focus , teamwork and understanding.

Their Top Tips are

Creative Problem Solving

- Facilitate creative problem solving sessions to create and inspire ideas
- Develop innovative solutions to increase positive customer experience
- Create engaging training that opens staff to new ideas
- Drive and nurture creativity in communications
- Instil mindset that looks for new opportunities , new ways of working

Adaptive Learning Processes

- Develop a blended learning proposition focussed on business goals
- Support performance management with employee development via coaching programme
- Identify , share and reward cost effective best practice
- Build a positive training culture that drives team performance aligned to business objectives
- Identify and develop internal talent at all levels

People engagement

- Encourage people to identify and achieve personal goals that benefit the company
- Share ( open book style ) performance and successes
- Promote self belief
- Use new ideas/challenges to energise teams
- Support individuals and teams in taking ownership of issues

Results Focus

- Measure performance and recognise individual/team contributions
- Ensure L&D activities are match for current and future business needs
- Help people to maximise all their current skills
- Develop L&D programmes that drive greater quality and efficiency
- Measure impact of L&D activities on business priorities


- Establish cross functional relationships focussed on results
- Create and Celebrate role models of teamwork
- Develop supportive culture where sharing issues is encouraged
- Provide models of ways of team working
- Invest in teams that deliver results


- Ensure company understands current and future needs of customers
- Learn from how other companies practices
- Encourage and listen to ideas from all staff
- Drive shared understanding of key objectives and issues
- L&D must be open , approachable and quick to respond

What do you think ???
Comment by Penny Walker on December 11, 2009 at 2:14
Hi Paul

Interesting set of competencies / qualities.

So I'm wondering, if this is what the great leaders of the future need to be like, what do the great 'people developers' of the future need to be like, to help our potential leaders develop those qualities and competencies?


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