Evolving leadership to meet the challenges of a changing world

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The world is changing in profound ways. Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics are eliminating traditional jobs, while at the same time millions of new occupations are being created by innovative entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, climate change disrupts our lives, requiring us to rethink our relationship with our planet and our future.

Never has the need for leadership and innovation been more urgent. Yet in the face of such rapid change, can we be sure that our traditional notions of leadership are still fit for purpose? Are they still relevant? And what role can technology play in ensuring that leadership and innovation will meet the needs of tomorrow?

Traditionally, “leadership” has referred to the most senior executives within an organization. But we all know that for a company to be successful, leadership needs to be present at every level of the organization. Traditional top-down hierarchies were designed to be hypercompetitive, with the idea being that cream rises to the top. However, the new focus on diversity and inclusion has revealed that many qualified leaders experience significant barriers to getting into positions of power. And that’s not all. Traditional corporate hierarchies encourage personal fiefdoms and information silos, both poison to productivity and innovation, the lifeblood of modern business.

The same technology that is revolutionizing how we live today is also transforming how we organize ourselves, and the role of leadership in our companies. Forward-thinking executives are attempting to create a more nimble, responsive and egalitarian management model. This is inspired by startup culture, with its casual environments, empowered workers and youthful energy. Also, companies that embrace diversity and inclusion have been shown to be more productive and ultimately more profitable.

Technology enables us to rethink and restructure how we work together and how we manage and measure productivity. Cloud-based systems empower today’s flatter management models and enable businesses to expand horizontally rather than vertically. Modern lenders are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this evolution in our work environments because the financial services industry is almost entirely built on technology and data.

Modern lending systems enable cross-functional teams. The adoption of cloud-based communications, collaboration and productivity tools open up the workplace and make it more transparent and accessible to all team members. People feel like their voices matter, and they aren’t afraid to share ideas and give feedback about decisions and goals. Open and robust discussion is rocket fuel for innovative problem-solving. Truth is, sometimes when traditional top-down leadership is removed, people feel more like they’re working for a team and not a “boss.” As a result, they tend to be more invested in their work.

This is where you’ll find the new model of business leader. Empowered by technology, their leadership ability stems from social influence, not authority or power. They maximize the efforts of others toward the achievement of a goal. Most of their time is spent engaging with employees, because engaged employees contribute to team effort and morale. Platforms that encourage interpersonal connections at all levels are a conduit for greater engagement and productivity. Any employer who is succeeding in attracting the top millennial or Generation Z talent understands this.

The evolved leader understands that new ideas can come from anywhere. They leverage diversity, create cross-functional teams with different skill sets and from different cultures. They use people’s unique perspectives to create innovation.

Most importantly, good leaders put the customer at the center of everything. Actively listening to customers and partners allows them to see the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace quickly. They let their customers drive product development and feature rollout. And when their customers and partners share a common technology platform, they can make more immediate decisions, solve problems together and thrive.

We must meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world, and that starts with evolving our understanding of what leadership can mean, and where we can source new and innovative ideas. Companies that still rely on old-fashioned, top-down decision-making, and that are hamstrung with bureaucracy or propped up with outdated technology, will struggle to compete.

Vlad Kovacevic is the founder and CTO of Inovatec Systems. Inovatec provides modern and innovative LOS, LMS and Direct systems that eliminate friction in the lending process and automate much of the manual work of originating and managing loans.

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