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30.06.2021

Leadership in 2031

How Julia Roberts, bees and Mental Health Indices can make you a great future leader

    By Annegret Schwotzer und Nikas Kropp

    “The future needs passionate, happy and confident young leaders, willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for their convictions.” This inspiring quote by Richard Branson kicked off the semester’s project in Strategic Foresight for the master’s students of the MSc International Business Development (IBD) and MSc International Accounting, Controlling and Taxation (IACT) programmes. They could not help but wonder – How exactly can we become great future leaders?

    Richard Jaimes, Head of Product Management at Continental, and Founder/Advisor at TurningPoint, Huete&Co and Quantumrun, all consulting agencies with a focus on strategic foresight and leadership, challenged the students to a deep dive into the topic – a topic as important as it is versatile. Leadership is among the many things turned on its head by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced workers and supervisors alike to work remotely. Add changing organizational structures, the war for talent in a globalized job market, a burgeoning gig economy, ascending technologies, new generations entering the workforce and calls for more diversity into the mix – and you’ll have myriads of possible leadership futures.

    Identifying potentially impactful trends and anticipating potential futures is the central purpose of strategic foresight. In Professor Dr Jan Oliver Schwarz’ course, the students learned about the concepts and tools behind this domain of strategic management, and why it is essential – especially in a world that seems more TUNA than ever (turbulent, uncertain, novel and ambiguous).

    Scenario planning, which dates back to Prussian warfare but remains widely used by today’s most successful companies, is one such tool. It involves researching relevant trends and emerging influences, among which the particularly uncertain and crucial drivers are identified. Selected key drivers are then used to set up a framework for building the scenarios, which are brought to life with sub-trends, descriptions, and visualizations. From these possible futures, companies can derive implications and are prepared to lay the strategic groundwork.

    Thanks to the input by Richard Jaimes and Professor Dr Schwarz, the IBD and IACT students were able to put the theory of scenario planning into practice and set about envisioning "The Future of Leadership 2031". Easier said than done: How can one grasp a phenomenon which is intangible, invisible, and individual at the same time? Beyond theoretical frameworks, the influential power and a deep understanding of scenario planning unfold once images are created. Can you list the ESB values? No?! Still, your brain immediately feeds the imagination with ESB-related images of meeting new cultures, receiving support from fellow students, pulling all-nighters to finish a group project, or being involved at ESB Student Consulting. There they are, the ESB values: Respect. Trust. Responsibility. Commitment. Lesson learned – Images prevail, words follow.

    Challenge accepted! The students were left with questions like these: How does the rise of AI solutions, the Internet of behaviors, and self-leadership impact employees’ wishes for self-realization, freedom of speech and mental health awareness in an ageing society? For instance, one group imagined how employees’ mental health indices will drive hiring and firing processes in 2031, while others devised a coequal and successful collaboration of leaders and AI. Lesson learned – Increase complexity in understanding, reduce complexity in communicating.

    To showcase the results of their complex strategic thinking, the students exhibited their talent as actors, illustrators, presenters, artists, and researchers. Visualizations of the different futures of leadership included revamped trailers of film classics including appearances of Julia Roberts, insights into how to become the next queen (or king) bee, hand-drawn sketches and Hollywood-worthy acting. Lesson learned – Some students should seriously consider a career in acting.

    Whatever the industry they will eventually find themselves in – the students of IBD and IACT are one step closer to becoming the passionate, happy, and confident young leaders of the future.

    Do you want to become a confident and informed decision-maker of tomorrow, too? Check out the Key Takeaways of IBD and IACT students’ “Futures of Leadership” below to be ready for leadership in 2031:

    • Leadership comes with trustworthiness and function, not with organizational status or rank
    • Increasing reliance and support provided by AI and technology can help leaders reach decisions
    • Leaders are constant and lifelong learners
    • Mental and psychological health becomes more relevant and important
    • Self-leadership experiences a boost
    • Managing gig workers and the implementation of teaming come into play to effectively manage resources