People Development

Are Leaders ready for the 4th Industrial Revolution?

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gains more and more momentum in industry and business, many commentators are giving their thoughts and opinions of the impact this wave will have on workers, leaders and the economy. Headlines I have read recently, like “The future just arrived, but are we ready” and “Myths about the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” and other similar ones permeate the news.

A humanoid, a robot that is both mechanical but has human and learning characteristics will arrive in South Africa this month.  This humanoid called Sophia (see below) and her creator David Hanson will be keynote speakers at a conference in Johannesburg  to address an important issue facing our country – are we ready for the fourth Industrial revolution (4IR)? Phrases like “Artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” are bandied about but there is no true understanding.

Recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the appointment of a 30 person 4IR commission. The purpose of this commission is to try and bridge the gap and step over the threshold. The playing fields are changing every day. Leaders need to adapt quicker than ever before. New skills sets and learning are required as we are entering a brave new world that requires creativity and intuition to tackle the new world of work. This can be liberating but also terrifying!

Leaders of progressive organisations will have to take charge of training in order to provide their workers with the adaptive skills. Leaders themselves will need, not only to use their left brain mathematical and technical skills, but also right brain creativity – Machines are not capable of this.

In my opinion, let’s debunk some myths about leadership as we approach this new world:

  • Everyone can be a leader – Not true.

Many workers do not have the knowledge and authenticity for leadership. Individuals want to be leaders but they do not have the self- knowledge and talent to lead in this new world.

  • Leaders deliver business results – Not always.

In most cases, companies promote people with the best results. But things are not that simple. If results were always a matter of good leadership, then picking leaders would be easy!

  • People who get to the top are Leaders – Not necessarily.

A misconception is that people in leadership positions are leaders! Many people reach the top because of politics, being in the right place or technical knowledge etc. Leaders should be developed throughout the organisation and position and rank does not determine whether you a leader

  • Leaders are great coaches – Rarely.

Good leaders ought to be good coaches but I see this rarely. Most good leaders excite others through their vision rather than using their coaching talents. Coaching requires setting aside time – in my opinion run of the mill leaders rarely do this.

Sophia should arrive in this country not only as a curious attraction. It must provoke us to start really thinking and talking about how we as leaders step over the threshold into the much hyped fourth industrial revolution.

ODI is well placed to prepare first line managers and supervisors for this new world of work by offering National Diplomas in Management and making sure they have the knowledge and self- awareness to become the new leaders in this new world.

Ref: Leadership Insights: Why should anyone be led by You? by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones

Davos Human Capital event: Duke Corporate Education. 2019

Author: Gerald McKinnon: Director at ODI

To read Dr Ntokozo Mthembu’s blog about Balancing job losses amidst innovation – The Kawada Industries’ innovative thinking, click here.