Trends influencing the future of leadership – for product managers
Today we are talking about what product managers should know about the future of leadership. By the nature of the role, product managers are leaders, as they must influence others, and many product managers will be in senior leadership roles in the future. Consequently, we should be looking at what it takes to be an effective leader now and in the future.
Joining us is an expert who tracks the trends influencing the future of leadership—Anne Loehr. She is a leadership speaker, trainer, and coach, and frequently writes on leadership topics. Her journey into leadership began as she owned and managed hotels and safari companies in Kenya, dealing with many crisis management situations, including facing down lions, severe weather and floods that carried away equipment, and transforming employees from different tribes to succeed together.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:01] What are the big trends that are driving leadership change?
There are four big trends:
- Longevity–our workforce is aging. The chances my sixteen-year-old daughter will live to 100 are very good, and the chances of her being healthy at 100 are even better. The idea of retiring at 65 is going to be thrown out the window, because we’ll have employees who are 70 or 75 who are vital and want to contribute. As leaders, we’re thinking through what it’s like to manage an aging workforce.
- People, especially women, are leaving businesses in droves to start their own businesses. There are 1900 small businesses started every day in the US. How do we support or retain people who want to start their own businesses?
- Diversity—our leaders are becoming more diverse and younger.
- Freelancers—by 2027, 50% of the workforce will be freelancers.
[9:48] What does current leadership look like?
Every organization and industry looks different. Some organizations have the culture of startups while others are based on command and control. Our whole society is asking, how do we respond to change? We need emotional intelligence, which means using our emotions to ground ourselves, show up fully, and influence those around us. Some people respond to change by holding even tighter to command and control, while others are disengaging, as we’ve seen in the Great Resignation.
[12:47] As leaders, how do we encourage employees to be engaged and move into the future?
Employee engagement means employees are psychologically committed to making a positive contribution at work. Globally, 20% of employees are engaged, and the US rate is around 40%.
There are four elements of emotional intelligence:
- Social awareness
We need leaders who:
- have purpose
- engage others
- inspire others
Culture is made of behavior, mindset, and values. If we have a sense of mission and values, and we know what behaviors are expected, we can be inspired to show up better tomorrow.
[16:30] How can leaders communicate what’s expected of the team?
The leaders of the future must have a strong handle on non-technical competencies, such as coaching, conflict management, and emotional intelligence. Practice these competencies in your organization and use them to influence the organization culture.
[20:28] What can product managers take action on to become better leaders in this new leadership environment?
Let’s break down coaching. It’s made of two skills—active listening and asking questions. Product managers make good coaches because they’re used to asking questions. Ask open-ended questions that start with how or what and are short (8 words or less). Use forward-focused, chronological language—avoid getting stuck in the drama; focus on what you’re doing in the future.
Accountability partners help us change. You can have an external, formal accountability partner whom you talk about goals with. You can have an internal, formal accountability partner—a peer or colleague. Tell them you’re working on not interrupting, being more concise, etc., and ask them to let you know how you’re doing. Or you can have an internal, informal accountability partner.
Action Guide: Put the information Anne shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” – Arianna Huffington
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.