Written by The Business Journal Staff
This profile of Kathryn Davis, President and CEO, Valley First Credit Union, was published in the “How She Leads” supplement from September 2021.
Most leaders would love to have access to a crystal ball. Knowing the successes and challenges ahead could certainly help in more effective planning, fine-tuned budgeting and precise results. As we know, this just isn’t the case. But when presented with the question: Look into your crystal ball: how will leadership change it the future and what’s going to influence those changes?” it is a thought-provoking exercise that allows us to consider the impact we can have.
First, I absolutely see emotional intelligence as being a requirement for future leaders versus just a nice-to-have. People are looking for leaders to be transparent, honest, inspirational and authentic and their ability to handle their interpersonal and professional relationships in a way that allows for those traits to come through will be necessary. Gone are the days of changes happening behind closed doors. And that needs to be more out in front of an organization and communicating more thoroughly puts emotional intelligence at the forefront.
The “why” will be critical for future leaders to not just explain, but also create inclusion around the “why” and ensure other leaders are just as dedicated as the person at the top. We recently re-did our annual strategic plan and I spent an equal amount of time explaining the “why” and spending time directly with employees and leaders so they could be part of the process, as we did on the actual work.
Future leaders will have to be strong multitaskers and have broader knowledge than leaders of yesterday. They can’t operate in a silo and will need to be connectors and bring people together. The ability to innovate and stay out of ahead of what is happening in one’s industry will be another part of that multitasking requirement – we can’t just focus on the here and now, we need to be thinking about tomorrow and perhaps more importantly, five-plus years out also.
I think organizations will ultimately be flatter in the future, so the modern-day leader is not someone who is detached from the business operations, but rather is a member of the team and also contributing directly. For me, I’m high on collaboration and wouldn’t think twice about meeting with any member of our team, regardless of their place in the org chart. I also consider myself a working member of many teams and try to directly fill in where the gaps are. We’ve recently had a vacancy in our leadership role over Risk Management. I had that entire team report to me directly while there was a gap so I could get closer to the work and truly understand our organization’s risk needs now and in the future.
The positive changes we’re seeing in diversity, equity and inclusion at the highest levels are some of the biggest reasons we’ll see effective leadership change. Leaders will be far more representative of the communities and groups their organization serves. I also think the modern workforce is expecting a different work experience and therefore it will require leaders to deliver on that, whether it be diversity, work-life balance, benefits or anything else. Especially if you are leading a growing organization, you’ll have to meet the needs of your internal customer first, your employees!
We don’t have access to a crystal ball but we as leaders we do need to have the foresight to know and anticipate what’s coming to help our organizations succeed.