Arjan van Weele, a Professor of Purchasing and Supply Management living in the Netherlands, discusses his perspective on leadership competencies that apply for any leader, no matter where you are within your career journey.

Interview Summary

JH: The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings unique and new dynamics when it comes to leading. There is a new business context that is happening worldwide, and current and future leaders should be on notice. We can’t deny that. And with this new business context, there’s probably the need for new competencies or an emphasis on certain ones that are everlasting.

AvW: I think so. Leaders not only have to perform like they have done so in the past, like having to explain a quarterly business result and individual leadership ability to shareholders, but they also have a much wider audience today. This broader audience (customers, employees, etc.) is quick to judge and often unforgiving. The leader’s credibility is also at stake, in the press, television, and social media. And more than ever before, they are put in the limelight. So they cannot only be concerned about internal corporate matters and believe they operate on an island of isolation, but now it is also with how this directly relates to the bigger world around them. Today’s leader must understand the social context to their image as a leader and become sensitive to the extraverted persona of a leadership position no matter what personality type you may have. That is quite a challenge; the most significant change that I see in how this now becomes a core competency within the leadership context.

JH: You’re saying that leaders live in a glass house?

AvW: Without a doubt, they live in a glasshouse. Executives will have to explain why individual business leaders are entitled to 128 times the salary of the average worker in some cases. People are not afraid to ask questions these days. Twenty years ago, semi-private information or corporate data was not known on such a large scale. Today it’s an issue. Today, the leader will need to explain why their company spends the way that it does or why it causes so much carbon footprint, and what are they doing to reduce that? So they can’t say, “yeah, we have the best people working on that,” and we do our best. No, we (the public, consumer, board members, etc.) want to see results. Their credibility at this point is at stake, and that is new. Authentic, vulnerable, and open communication is a new role that they need to assume.

Key Leadership Takeaways:

  1. As the business is shifting, so should the thoughts of what the right competencies are for its leaders.
  2. Leaders always (now more than ever) live in a glasshouse.
  3. Open, transparent communications will win the day in today’s personal and professional environments.

Connect with Arjan van Weele on LinkedIn

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