Are we ready for Human Leadership?

‘We need a registry of all the robots who come into our country and take our jobs’ — Sean Flatt, Founder of FutureHunt

Have you noticed that men overwhelmingly dominate discussions about the future? The Ray Kurzweils, Elon Musks, and Sergey Brins of the world are cited in countless thought pieces. The future we read about is made up of recycled bits of interviews curated from the minds of a few great men innovating in Silicon Valley. As it stands today, the prerequisites for being an expert on the future are running a tech startup that’s gone public, or directing sci-fi blockbusters. Where are our female voices about the future? And what if you don’t run a tech startup?

From Digital to Human Leader

I started my working life in digital when we called it Multimedia, later New Media, then Interactive and today Digital, and I still stand proud of placing the first pixel on the initial adidas website — a logo with a tiny spinning gif. I worked myself through all evolutions of technology advancements, starting with CD-ROMs and today catching up with Artificial Intelligence. Not just how a robot will think and act like a human, but more the possibilities of different types of intelligence and awarenesses in our future. I naturally took to continual learning and growing the awareness of my Self. I am passionate about discussing future scenarios that involve the unease ‘man versus machine’. I seem to ‘fall in love’ a little bit with every person who shows me his or her soul. This world is so guarded and fearful. I appreciate rawness so much. I admire people with optimism and self-motivation, imagining the kind of future we want to create and then getting on and doing it. I celebrate people who trust their inner wisdom and follow their hearts desire. I stand for humanity and equal rights. For diversity and freedom. I am inspired to design a precious world, with the Earth in mind. Not just benefiting us humans, but also the broader ecosystem.

That is why I stepped out of my ‘career’ in digital agency life. I was regarded as a valuable Digital Leader, globetrotting from one place to the next, particularly for a significant FMCG conglomerate I loved working with, and later running as Managing Director of a widely respected ideas and innovation company, putting my leadership qualities to play. I learnt the pitfalls of leadership. Sometimes receiving the feedback of being too people orientated. ‘You need to be more assertive, directive, egoistic, focus on the numbers if you want to succeed as a leader’. Really?

I stepped in to founding my company SOULWORX in 2015, to follow my passion of bringing human touch to the forefront of all endeavors, and encouraging space for happier and more fulfilling lives. I call myself a Human Leader now, and like to say SOULWORX is a humans for new work (#HONW) business, focused on elevating human potential, in the midst of all the technology disruption.

With SOULWORX I coach and consult, inspire and accompany leaders and their organizations holistically on the human touch in transformation, as we together navigate the path of necessary change.

Why human touch?

  1. We’re reaching a point where the number of industries transforming simultaneously is unprecedented.
     Just like the horse and cart is almost unrecognizable today, in the future, sectors like healthcare, agriculture, and financial services are likely to look fundamentally different.
     Humans will feel insecure.
  2. Human experiences like those of connection, nutrition, and care are becoming undoubtedly more techno-orientated and data driven.
     Humans will feel hesitant.
  3. Automated tools will replace millions of human jobs by 2025.
     Humans will feel misplaced.
  4. Younger generations are increasingly opting out of workplace traditions (the five day work week, the eight hour day, yearly performance management processes etc.) and are turning towards a digital nomad life, circumventing the corporate treadmill, and engaging on freelance / network basis.
     Humans will feel detached.
  5. There is a huge surge in and desire for meaning, if not spirituality. Yoga studios are rising by the day. Meditation classes are becoming a new norm in institutions and work places and Life Coach apps are becoming more and more valid.
     Humans will feel disorientated.

In an innovation age where change is less incremental and more fundamental, leaders and their organizations (and the innovators themselves) need to be as concerned with building the language of the future as they are with the thing they’re building. Human touch, real communication and engagement is now more than ever essential, as we navigate transformational journeys. As new experiences are built to replace the old, language, messaging and engagement that transforms technology or research from uncanny to acceptable needs to be applied to help reshape normative behavior patterns and of new technology. As we continue on a path toward becoming seemingly “less human” — where we implant biometric devices into our bodies, eat synthetic 3D-printed meat, and travel via driverless cars — the onus is on leaders and their organizations to work in tandem with their customers to create cultures and vocabularies of change, that draw on the humanness in us. For leaders and organizations, this means explicitly expressing personal and organizational purpose and the value they wish to bring to the future, exposing rules of engagement, encompassing rituals, and sharing real stories around not only their products that exist today, but guides for engagement and communication that build towards and speculate on a more accessible and human future vision.

I am convinced that now more than ever, language of change is critical for us to adopt new products, services, and behaviors. Fundamentally, humans want to feel connections and technology is not negating our desire to connect, it’s changing it and, in some ways, facilitating it.

Only what is that language of the future?

How do we as leaders change our narrative, our messaging, our actions and our thoughts to rid insecurity, caution, confusion, detachment and uncertainty? What kind of human touch do we need, to transform our organizations, and society as a whole towards a more precious world, honoring technology advancements while still respecting our planet and the resources it provides? I believe human touch needs feminine qualities: Surrender. Receptivity. Empathy. Flow. Sharing. Nurturing. Self-Aware. Radiance. Abundance. Courage.

In today’s definition, I am not an expert on the future. I am not male. I don’t run a tech startup that’s gone public, and I am definitely not directing sci-fi blockbusters. I hold together a small strategic development studio, with individuals driven by purpose, humanity and soul, using intuition, foresight, collective genius and logic to ensure ideas and plans that emerge from collaborative, co-creating processes are robust, and move leaders and their organizations towards a preferred and shared future.