As leaders, we have all been asked the question “Where do you see yourself in five years?” In each case, the expected answer is a job title, some type of work experience, a career achievement, or even leading a company.
Now consider the rapidly changing work market - and you can see that a linear eduction - and a linear career track - one that is focused on developing the skills to succeed in a single expertise - is a relic of the industrial era. Here are five thoughts on how you can really prepare yourself as a leader for the next 5 years (for your leadership role in 2023!):
1. Learn How To Use Information. While the process of learning is currently structured around the age of the learner, the reality is that most everyone has access to almost any information at any time. Scarcity drives value in today’s market. It’s not information that’s scarce. It’s people who know how to use information for problem solving.
2. Learn To Add Value. As organizations become flatter - the traditional vertical promotions that equated to career success become less relevant and less attainable. The differentiator is no longer seniority - but our skill at adding value. Especially when we can be a “value add” to the work of others.
3. Become a Learn-It-All. Learning agility and a healthy curiosity are the key skills for success. If there’s one thing anyone can benefit from in life, it’s always thinking of yourself as a student. It’s okay if you don’t know something as long as you’re willing to learn it. Stay current. Study trends. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You cannot afford to leave your knowledge accumulation to chance or to your current employer. Focus on proactive learning. Seek new experiences, new insights, and new business models.
4. See Leadership as a Contact Sport. Leadership does not reside in a single person, job title or role. Learning is a collective process with a group of people. Leadership is a contact sport - situational at best - and successful learners learn from each other. It’s even better if you develop a bit of emotional intelligence along the way - building your interpersonal and team building skills. You can’t be a leader if you only hang out in your office, you’re constantly challenging others’ views, or you spend your time passing out deadlines for others with no real active engagement with the team.
5. Transform Your Workspace into a Destination. Our workplace should transform from the mindset of “where work gets done” to a destination for “how work gets done” - a place we go to problem solve with others, to delight our customers, to build our relationships. It should be a space where others feel welcome to challenge, to debate, to visually examine possibilities. The new way of working is not just about bringing down the walls—it’s about bringing down the old-school style of hierarchical, top-down management. As we reconfigure the space within the four walls we work in, to truly change the traditional workplace model, we need to equally reconfigure the way we think about letting all team members be heard.
The real answer to “What are your going to be doing in five years is this… Nothing you can imagine right now. The changing market, the rapid advancement in technology and the global economy will chew up all your best plans. You have no idea what you'll be doing in five years. But if you focus on these principles, You’ll be doing something really cool as a leader - and really meaningful. And it’s likely something you can’t possibly image right now.