The fear of workers losing their jobs due to technology disruption is well-documented, but their bosses are just as nervous about their futures as well. A recent survey of 3,000 executives finds 72% of executives are actually worried about losing their jobs due to “disruption,” — up from 51% in 2021. And 94% believe they will have to change their business models within the next three years to remain competitive.
The disruption, of course, comes out of technology shifts, the survey, published by AlixPartners, confirms. While executives “see the huge opportunity technology presents, but also worry that if they don’t pick up pace, they and their companies will be left behind.”
Many executives agree that today’s and tomorrow’s leaders need to rethink their roles and the opportunities presented to them and their co-workers. Moving into the 2020s, “leaders need to look for ways to break the hold of traditional ways of running the business rather than just accepting the status quo as the way it will always be done,” says Zak Holdsworth, co-founder and CEO of Hint Health. “In this day and age, technology enables faster disruption than was historically possible. In order to maintain long term competitive advantage, it’s crucial that leadership teams continue to think outside the box and don’t become complacent.”
It’s important to remember that while technology is a tool and an enabler for moving forward, but it takes an inner compass to make the technology work. “You need to have a vision and analytical skills to know what you’re doing right or wrong and to know what you need to do moving forward,” says Jamie Rosenberg, CEO and co-founder of ClassWallet.
Technology touches all aspects of business, requiring “at least a cursory understanding of best practices,” says Holdsworth. “The principles of how to build world-class products are also solid general skills that can be applied to other aspects of business as well. There are a number of classes online that you can take after hours or books that you can read to get what you need.”
Technology dispersing employee teams and creating opportunities for autonomy in work are creating demand for a need type of leadership — one that facilitates and supports teams, versus staying aloof. “Gone are the days of command-and-control leadership,” says Lewis Black, CEO at Actian. “This has been replaced by a more healthy and balanced relationship with employees. Leaders today need to lead with compassion, authenticity and put employee needs at the very top of their agenda.”
This is the key to managing through all disruptions that lie ahead, executives agree. “Approach employees with compassion and a focus on the person as a whole, not just as a worker,” says Holdsworth.
“Developing one’s career is about making yourself more useful and improving how you engage with people and teams to get things done,” Black agrees. “Whether you are in a company or starting your own business, seek to broaden your experiences by getting exposed to different areas and work on amplifying your ability to get things done by influencing and engaging people and teams – education can help, but doing is where the real learning occurs.”
The disruptive 2020s are bringing many surprises, and the way to move forward — and move your teams forward — is flexibility, both in planning and in attitude. “Be open-minded and willing to move forward in a general direction to be open to where life takes you,” says Rosenberg. “There’s a long-standing belief that to be successful with your career, you need to have a specific endpoint and follow a straight path to reach your goal. However, there’s no-one-size-fits-all path to success. People now have more opportunities than ever before to explore what they’re looking for in a career, but it’s important to stay open-minded. When you do that, you may end up in a place you never would have thought of at the beginning of the journey.”