New Leadership Choices: Are You the Leader This Moment Requires?


As if your job wasn't difficult already -- it truly is! -- you oversee yesterday's crumbling management pillars, and your job is to transition into a new and historic future.

Wow. Either you are a glutton for punishment or you are already my hero! Well, with great responsibility come great responsibilities. Let's dig into that.

Making the Future Work

This is the first of a three-part series based on the just-released "Future of Work Study: Making the Future Work, 2015-2020." This post focuses on leadership. The next two are about our relationship with organizations and each individual's responsibilities.

Rather than add to all the hyperventilating about disruptive changes that are radically altering how we work, we studied the transition from past to future -- what it will take to make those disruptions work and what truly matters.

Here are just two of leadership's 21st-century responsibilities.

Raise the Bar on Respect

Surely, you already have strong values in place for you and everyone in the organization.

But what is one of the most precious, irreplaceable assets that everyone has?


And not organizational time (e.g., 1 minute saved x 1,000 people = 1,000 minutes saved) but personal time.

Everyone gets only 1,440 minutes every day. And everything your company and their teammates do uses that asset. Raising the bar on respect means examining and possibly redesigning everything that every employee touches.

That's every form, process, procedure, tool -- your entire corporate infrastructure -- designed backwards from how well it respects and uses each individual's time.

And we have a long way to go! According to our other studies, on average only 12 percent of employees believe that their time is respected and invested wisely by their companies. Whoa. Not good. Very wasteful.

Twenty-first-century leaders must raise the bar on this dimension of respect.

New Responsibility: Reimagining Hierarchies

The top finding in our "Future of Work" study: Far too many leaders are holding back the future because it comes wrapped in risk.

The future of work calls for an overhaul of business and work design. Each company's needs are different, but the overall trend is moving away from 20th-century hierarchies to a wirearchy -- leveraging the power of networks and communities to organize work and responsibilities.

That means you own the responsibility of reinventing hierchical structures and replacing them with 21st-century ways of working. This is today's innovator's dilemma: You can't let the current organizational systems fail, and you must replace them with new systems.

The only way to carry out that responsibly is by:

  • Accepting the current reality: that many of the ways that you currently control and coordinate implementation and mitigate risks must be redesigned.
  • Doing a lot of rapid prototyping and piloting: trying out new systems in small ways, then leveraging what works.
  • New Choices: Are You That Leader?

    While there are many additional responsibilities, let's start with just those two.

    Are you the leader to immediately:

    • Raise the bar on how everyone and everything in your organization respects every individual's time?
  • Pilot the reimagining of every structure that coordinates, controls and risk mitigates?
  • If yes, woohoo! Get to it! We're all rooting for you!

    If no, please find someone who will.

    The only "wrong" approach to the future of work is attempting to lead people into the 21st century while holding on to 20th-century approaches.

    Bill Jensen is the foremost thought leader on workplace simplicity and organizational complexity. He and his ideas have been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal. As Mr. Simplicity, his mission is to make it easier to do great work and to hack stupid work. To date, he has interviewed and surveyed over 1 million people around the globe about how they get stuff done. He is CEO of the change consulting firm The Jensen Group. His latest books are Disrupt! Think Epic, Be Epic and The Courage Within Us.

    You can contact Bill through email ( or his website. Follow bill on Twitter: @simpletonbill.

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