Recently, I had the opportunity to present and engage with Learning Futurist, author and outstanding speaker from Australia named Tony Ryan. Tony has authored eight books and manuals on innovative thinking and the future of learning, he is a consultant for universities and schools around the world, the founder of EarthMovers Foundation, the co-founder of School2School and holds many other accolades.
Tony challenged us to consider that now is the time for a call to action. His recent book entitled, The Next Generation – Preparing Kids for An Extraordinary Future is a wakeup call for all of us to share important messages of hope and optimism. He challenges us to reflect on the way we are sending messages to future generations and leaders and what those messages are. As Tony asserts, this is the most innovative time in human history to be alive and the future offers such potential, yet we are constantly telling our future generations how difficult the world ahead will be.
It has been argued that future generations will experience a world that is complex, unpredictable and even frightening. We spend far too much time focusing on these messages of fear, doom and gloom, rather than sending positive messages and investing time in developing skills that will prepare future generations for what is to come.
Tony encourages all of us to shift our priorities and focus on positivity and opportunity as well as driving development in “soft skills” such as adaptability, empathy and lifelong learning. Adaptability, for example, builds resilience and is a skill that will prepare future generations, and in particular future leaders, for the complex, unpredictable and continuously changing nature of our world.
It was this message that resonated with me most. Reflecting on the leadership work I conduct in schools and workplaces, I recognize how crucial it is that we teach both children and adults that they have control over creating conditions for their success and ultimately the world around them. Further, while it is imperative that we teach these skills, it is equally as crucial that we exemplify them on a daily basis. We have to believe in it and model this positive growth mindset ourselves.
The “soft skills” Tony and I are referring to here are also referred to as emotional intelligence. On a side note, I would argue that the term “soft skills” shouldn’t be used to describe them, but instead they should be referred to as “necessary skills”. Well developed emotional intelligence has a huge impact on your professional success – typically, top performers exemplify high developed emotional intelligence. It is our emotional intelligence that is linked to how we manage our behaviour, navigate conflict and make the right decisions that achieve positive results.
Here are four strategies that I promote in my leadership work. As we share messages, guide and teach future generations, these strategies should be modelled and leveraged.
- Be relentlessly positive and model it. Numerous studies indicate that optimists are physically and psychologically healthier than pessimists and perform better at work. They are also more desirable to be around.
- Always make sure that leaders understand WHY. Current and future leaders need to understand how they provide value in the work they are doing and what the inherent purpose is in advancing the mission of the organization. It is critical to lead people by articulating the why and manage people through effective communication, listening and encouraging.
- Give feedback frequently and make sure it is targeted. With the rapid growth and integration of social media and on-demand access to information in schools systems and workplaces, it is important that feedback is regular. Feedback is critical to growth, but also engagement.
- As a leader prioritize offering opportunities for growth. We all need to learn and grow in this fast-paced, ever-changing, multi-cultural world we live in – sometimes it can be overwhelming. As a leader, providing growth opportunities at all levels of the organization is critical to empower and develop your team.
This is a call to action for all of us. We have the shared responsibility of developing our future leaders. Let us keep at the forefront the importance of always leading and emphasizing the importance of optimism.