Leadership? Only humans need apply


Ours is a disruptive world. Disruptors include AI, robotics, computerisation, globalisation and the imminent fourth industrial revolution. Already, a growing number of commercial and industrial processes are being dehumanised. So, are humans reaching their sell-by date?

Admittedly, people will have to adapt or cry (over lost jobs or diminished career prospects). The good news is that a stellar future awaits those who are flexible, resourceful, emotive and empathetic (in other words, the very human humans). This is especially true of corporate leaders who are developing coping strategies for the 2020s.

Pertinent insights are afforded by work in my own specialisation – executive search and talent acquisition. Among leading practitioners, the goalposts have widened to the point where the work now entails close partnership with corporates with the aim of shaping integrated leadership and talent solutions.

Listening, understanding and empathising are the key requirements, not crunching the data to find candidates with the technical qualifications and relevant experience. Machines can do that.

But machines can’t sense the cultural fit or feel the chemistry when a potential leader is exposed to new challenges.

These days, you can put a smiling face on a machine, but you can’t instil empathy and the human ability to assess feelings and emotions. Only humans can do that – whether you are a so-called headhunter looking for the ideal fit or a seasoned business leader creating a succession strategy by developing and acquiring the right talent.

The importance of very human qualities is spotlighted when working with an individual executive looking to ensure continued relevance as a senior corporate performer.

The key question is: what do I need to do or be to ensure career success in five years’ time?