Technological disruption demands that today’s leaders’ skill up

5 Key skills that new age leaders need

It was in the early 90s while studying MS in USA, I remember writing a paper about how AI and robotics may take away some of our jobs. However, 3 decades later it’s a reality staring at us! The pace at which AI, Automation, Robotics and Voice recognition technologies are impacting many of the jobs we took for granted earlier, is unfathomable! We may not have time to react. Technological disruptions in the last 10 years have been much more than all other centuries combined. As a child, I recollect how we had to “book” for a telephone connection and wait for several months to get that connection, and there was a sense of pride when you eventually got it. You had to “book” for a car and wait several months and the moment you drive it home from the dealership after the wait, you would drive it right back to the dealership due to some fault. I remember one time, the passenger side door would not close after we drove the car home. Can anyone imagine waiting for a smartphone connection in today’s world? Or waiting to buy a car or a scooter? Unimaginable, right? The adoption of any new technology has literally been overnight these days. Alexas and Siris rule our world!

This rapid rate of technological change is something that leaders need to keep up with on priority. CEIC Data shows that productivity has dropped by 5.52 % YoY in Dec 2019. According to ‘Leadership Development Trends 2019’, a Mercer|Mettl survey, around 80 percent of the organisations in India are currently facing a leadership talent shortage. Honestly, this data is alarming as it shows a gloomy outlook for the future of companies.

Interestingly, in the current scenario, I have seen many C suite leaders acknowledge their lack of readiness for this technology wave. This is certainly a positive realisation. In an uncertain business climate, raising productivity is a priority and a fundamental need for leaders. In order to adapt and adopt, leaders must update certain skills. Here are 5 skills that new age leaders will need to develop in order to keep up with this disruption.

Emotional Intelligence

This is my favourite! In my entrepreneurial journey, I have seen many a leader with amazing technical or functional skills fail miserably due to a lack of emotional maturity. According to HBR, emotional intelligence accounts for an astounding 90%of what sets high performers apart. It helps a leader work successfully with the team as it gives the necessary skills to accurately perceive emotions. This is what was special about “that” leader who everyone loved to talk with. This is also the skill that was lacking in the Manager who the whole office disliked. The core skills under emotional intelligence are Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social skills. As a leader, at all times, you need to consider what your team/stakeholders are thinking and feeling as this will in turn help you in ensuring productivity in these changing times.


Life will knock you down and that’s a given! I have faced huge highs and huge lows in my own life’s journey. What will set you apart as a leader, is your ability to bounce back when knocked down. Success comes to those who are resilient. In order to endure and thrive, this is an essential skill that cannot be ignored. A resilient leader has the ability to accept any challenge, to take control of the situation and be committed till the end. It begins with accepting there is a problem! One can build these attributes of resilience by making mental shifts, looking at positives, avoiding victimization mind-set and even meditation. All it takes is a will to change and accepting that change.


It’s a huge mistake to think that creativity is something that is only for artists and the like. With the evolution of technology, we no longer need to deal with spreadsheets or even heaps of user data, which means that routine jobs can be eliminated. When this happens, human imagination and creativity will be of more value than ever before. Technology can produce songs, art and even writing, however, what it cannot do is build human connect and creativity. Companies like Adobe, Google, Facebook and Twitter already have a creative culture at work.  Creative leaders with wider perspectives are better at problem-solving and are innovative in their ways of thinking. It thus becomes the most important leadership skill in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world. Remember, there is always a better way to do something!


This may sound like a cliche, however this is what makes any team succeed. A good leader needs to engage the entire team/stakeholders towards shared vision and goals. While planning and execution, the focus must be on the team. A leader should always lead by example, inspire and motivate. History has shown us that victory is the result of effective collaboration. A decentralised and egalitarian team can have a more social leadership in order to collaborate. Collaboration opens the channels of communication and boosts the morale of a company. Eventually, this will translate to better productivity, efficiency and retention. No room for politics in highly functional teams, it’s not about the “I” but always the “We”!


‘Rigidity and leadership’ have never been a successful combination. Leaders have to be flexible in their thinking and in defining the path to reach a goal. One can continue to follow the standard procedures, however, it needs to be reviewed constantly with the changes in technology. Change must be viewed as an opportunity and one must have the ability and willingness to learn and apply it while dealing with work and inspire teams to adapt to these changes. Leaders also need to foster curiosity about newer technologies and ideas that change with the times. Sustenance in the long term can only happen when this is in place. 

There are already restaurants in Bangalore where we are being served by robots. I will surely miss being served by and interacting with a waiter during a sit-down dinner. The point though is: Do we have a choice? Probably not? Closing your eyes and assuming everything is great around us and nothing will change could be disastrous for the current breed of leaders. Being cognizant of these skills and using them will give leaders a competitive edge and is increasingly becoming a necessity to survive. Remember: Bigger the dream, more important is the team.

Where do you stand in terms of these skills? How are you dealing with this increasing pace of technological advent?  Would love to hear about it!

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