As I wrote in a January 2016 post — “Uber, Airbnb, Booking.com: the new players who are reshuffling the cards“ — the post-war years saw the emergence of a new category of managers, mainly engineers. Of course, there were many reasons that could explain this rise, the most obvious being the need to rebuild an industrial sector totally destroyed by the chaos of the Second World War. In fact, from that time on, engineers became the decisive factor in returning Europe to a flourishing economy. We know those disasters, wars, devastation, are often followed by happier periods, where everything seems possible again. This was unquestionably the case for the three decades of the post-war boom, known in France as the “Glorious Thirty”. Those years were all the more important as they witnessed the birth of the consumer society!
A world of rationality
In the years before the war, ideas were dominant — uptown students aimed to obtain their baccalaureate in Philosophy before conquering the “Ecole Normale Supérieure” in the same discipline — but after the apocalypse, everything was turned upside down. Rationality became imperative. Problems were therefore analysed methodically and logically. Of course, this had always been the case, but not in such a mechanical way. Operational methods changed, as did systems of management. Difficulties were dissected into sub-problems in order to find the perfect solution. An equation, some variables, one or more unknowns, but one and only one solution. In a rational world, an engineer or a scientist is more at ease than anyone else. He has become the leader role model, and has been moving into management positions for more than fifty years. Sometimes with different features. When financials and the markets emerged in the 1990s and the early 2000s, they displayed characteristics that were ultimately quite similar to those of their elders. In fact, they were often engineers who simply added an MBA to their diplomas.
Technological advances have changed everything
Creativity, the new driving force for world growth
There is no doubt that we must have a new generation of leaders to meet the challenges we are facing today. These challenges are different from those that previous generations had to deal with, those we described earlier. Future leaders will have to open up new routes for the greater good. They will have to be sources of inspiration for all, to give meaning to both joint and individual action, and to place communal issues at the heart of the action. In tomorrow’s world, work will become collaborative. Many disparate but complementary skills will have to work together. A different approach will be needed to better understand current developments, to make intergenerational relations a reality, and to truly integrate diversity. It is all the more important as we move from a world of goods and services towards an economy of ideas. This transition will involve deep changes. At all levels. First, as far as skills are concerned. And secondly, there will inevitably be an impact on the societal model. For decades, we have been reasoning in terms of working hours and productivity, while the notion of produced added value has gradually been emerging. In the past, we tried to measure the number of goods produced by one person in one hour. In the future, we will evaluate the clever ideas that people come up with at work that speed up progress or, even better, that provoke change, thus giving a competitive advantage. Value will no longer be measured in the number of hours worked but in the added value generated. Obviously, current social models will change profoundly in the future to adapt to this major development: Creativity has become the new driving force for the world economy. In this new world, unlike before, there is not necessarily just one single solution, the engineer has his place but he is no longer the sole master on board. Mathematics is no longer the only selection criterion.
In the future, intelligence must be multiform
For decades, we have focused on just one form of human intelligence. The one we describe as analytical. First because it corresponds well with the issues we have been dealing with since the post-war period, and then because we know perfectly well how to measure it, by IQ (Intelligence Quotient). But there are six other forms of intelligence: spatial, physical, musical, linguistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. To consider only the analytical form is to reduce human potential to a single form of expression. In reality, two of them stand out as vital in training the leaders of tomorrow: Relational intelligence and emotional intelligence.
Of course, we do not mean to diminish the importance of logical-mathematical intelligence. It would be complicated to manage a company or a government with a low IQ. Indeed, the complexity of today’s world demands sharply-honed minds. But conversely, the finest intellectual machines may seize up if they cannot choose the right people to work with, or take advantage of the sensibilities of those around them. If they cannot manage their emotions and those of others, they may quickly have difficulty finding the necessary compromises, understanding where the blockages are, and assessing the level of opposing forces and resistance. In this new world where relationships and networks dominate, these are essential assets. And while creative people occupy a central position today, let us wager that it is the combining of the different forms of intelligence in order to better comprehend our society and better react to its evolutions that will truly make the difference.
Tomorrow’s leader will be oriented more towards others. Well-surrounded, sensitive, agile, reactive, human, he will have extraordinary qualities of perception and will often rely on his intuition. A good analysis will not be enough to succeed. On the flip side, it will be a necessary but not sufficient condition to be a manager. He will have to experiment, make mistakes, modify, change direction, work in a team, in a collaborative spirit. In order to write new chapters in the economic, social and societal model that we know.
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