What does it take to be a contemporary leader?

To be a contemporary leader you have to take into account actual social and technological developments.

Yesterday Heiske had a conversation with some senior lecturers from the University Amsterdam (VU). Together they shared thoughts to ensure the VU properly educates its students for the future. To share her ideas Heiske used some slides of her presentation ‘The Future for Organizations’. One of the slides is shown below.

In this slide she highlights some trends.

Knowledge about the human system

Due to the fact we learn more about the human body and its operation system, we can shift our health care from repairing to preventing. We can even improve our bodies if certain things do not function well. Subsequently moving from improving to making super bodies is just a little step away. That makes ethical decision making an important topic for now and the near future.

Nowadays we have learned a lot about the human emotional operation system. This can be beneficial to us, but also can have a downside. If we can predict the emotional responses on individual level, then websites can leverage this to make us buy stuff. In other words, we can be manipulated. To avoid that, it is key to know our emotional system very well. What are our red buttons? What makes us act? Do you know your emotional system good enough to prevent it for manipulation?

An infinite life

Thanks to all the latest technology in the health care and the fact that majority of us do not have to care about having a shelter and food (the layers of the Maslov pyramid), we can have infinite lives. If that’s the case, we’d better make our life a happy one! That’s why you see a shift from a focus on welfare to wellness.

Increased complexity

Most of our organizations currently exist of knowledge workers. A fact about knowledge workers is that they do not want to be managed and regulated by rules and procedures. On top of that our world is getting more complex and changes rapidly. These are the most important reasons why organizations need to shift from a hierarchy to a more organic structure. This means people will be more empowered than ever. To be able to deal with the complexity and empowerment, we need to learn to take ownership and properly work together.

Changing world

Due to our continuously changing world, we have to make a shift from a focus on efficiency to finding a proper balance between efficiency and being innovative. Innovation is typically not efficient, since you start doing things you have never done before. That’s why there is a high change you will make mistakes that are not beneficial to your efficiency measures.


We are overwhelmed nowadays by all the communication. The communication is not local anymore like a century ago, our scope is global. All the communication coming towards us can drain our energy. That’s why we need to learn to take some rest now and then; take some communication-detoxing time. The communication that receives us, needs to be critically reviewed: is this true or fake? And obviously nothing beats ‘real’ friendships, so do not forget to have some fun in the real world instead of only connecting online!

This is just a quick write-up of some elements we face and we have to prepare the next generation for. We know that this is not a complete picture. For a complete picture we offer our Contemporary Leadership Program. The message we want to convey with this article is: be aware of external developments and try to properly prepare yourself, others and your organization!

In case you’d like to discuss these topics: feel free to join the Contemporary Leaders Club on Facebook. This is a mastermind for ambitious professionals and managers who want to have a positive impact on their team and organization.