The Future of Leadership

Adjiedj Bakas is a trend watcher and an ‘agent provocateur’, when it comes to the discussions on future trends. He thinks that posing questions on the development of our future is of equal importance then to answer them. He discovered several global megatrends and envisioned patterns between them. And to imagine the future is being halfway in developing tools and strategies to cope with change, he thinks.

Fewer leader, bigger decisions

Adjiedj Bakas spoke on Duinlust Estate on November 9th 2011 about the future of leadership. He states that our businesses have 10% less managers then 10 years ago. And in 10 years from now this number will have decreased by 20% more. This poses a question. Are we able to cope with fewer and fewer leaders, whilst big social issues such as the rising cost of food and health and the increase of cyber crime are there to be solved? Bakas thinks modern leadership is not for the faint hearted.

Leading is foreseeing

Bakas explains that the years in which we now live, will later be know as the years of the big stagnation.

This is the fifth global depression of the last two centuries. “But did you know that the Chinese sign for crisis equals that of both threat and opportunity? Threats can be seen as opportunities, especially in break through innovations and new businesses. Change is needed and crisis is needed for change. Never waste a good crisis, because leading is foreseeing,” according to Bakas.

The end of privacy

Our societies are becoming more and more digitalized as we connect mainly through technology. We grow more depended upon these digital tools, and this comes with a prize, says Bakas. The war on Internet has begun. Cyber crime grows rapidly and the question is whether or not we have the skills to fight it. We think our data is protected in the cloud, but things can be deceiving. Bakas also wonders, during his lecture, if we have come to the end of privacy.

Think the unnatural

New technology asks for different skills in leadership. New business models need to be implemented to connect to new technology. Bakas: “Think of the third dimension. What does 3D printing enable us to achieve? What does that imply for logistics, for instance? Radical new technology is knocking at our doors. The first 3D-printer for food has just been installed at the Dutch University of Wageningen. Imagine if we can print our food, straight from garbage? New leadership implies thinking of the unnatural and beyond the obvious.”

Leadership is about life

Big demographic changes will set the social agenda in the years to come. We have welcomed the 7th billion human, and in 30 years time we will welcome the 9th billion. Most of this demographic growth will be on the part of underdeveloped nations. More then ever prosperity has become an issue of distribution. And as always in history, there will be winners and losers.

Aging has become a problem in wealthy nations. Our longevity has a profound impact on our pension systems, employment and the cost of healthcare. What if immortality is discovered? Leadership will also have to be on matters of live and death.

Climate changes business 

The biggest change this century will be the replacement of the old, fuel based economy with the new-energy economy. Climate change will affect us all, but will be most of all a profound change in markets, according to Bakas. The trend of sustainability is here to stay, Bakas states, as governments will employ laws to change our behaviours towards consumerism.

Water management will become big business; the amounts of city farms will grow; functional food will become more popular as the genetic manipulation of crops will cure disease.

Leadership is seduction

Civilians will empower themselves, having access to specific knowledge online and the ability to connect to likeminded people. The elite information monopoly is fading, governments are taking steps back and civilians increasingly speak out for themselves. This will have a profound affect on the ratio of power and the authorization of politics. Civilians take initiative and online platforms enable them to connect to others on a grand scale. Civilian networks will become more effective then governments. Political and even democratic systems will be subject of debate. Even the economy will change. Values, such as happiness, self-realisation and experiences will become the new assets. “The 21-century civilian will exchange the E of Economics with the E’s of Energy and Emotion. To be a leader in the age of the civilian means to adapt to constant change. Shifts happen. And leading will become more like seduction,” Bakas states.


Adjiedj Bakas is a leading trend watcher in The Netherlands and author of several books on future trends.


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