3 Essential Traits for the Next Generation of Leaders

Posted by Tom Scarda, Certified Franchise Executive on Aug 24, 2020 8:50:16 AM

In franchise consultant, life decisions

When you own a franchise, you’re the leader of a small business -- its success and challenges ultimately fall on your shoulders. But, as the landscape for leaders evolves, the skills and competencies that once would get leaders by will no longer be enough.

The emerging environment for leader is requiring an increasingly visionary and motivational approach to leadership. According to John Miller, CEO of Denny’s, "if you want to lead you have to follow. You must follow a set of noble values and leadership principles worthy to lead. Put your talent in the service of others. Model behaviors that unite people, give them power and bring out their best."

While this may seem like a daunting challenge, it can be broken down into core components. Here are three essential traits that I’ve found  franchise leaders should cultivate to remain competitive and thrive.

The human element

The functional elements of tech today are easy to come by and replicable by your competitors. Almost every fast food joint has self-serve ordering stations, but success at this level doesn’t come down to having better tech. For instance, Chick Fil-A’s marked success comes not from better tech, but from their superior customer service driven by the personability of their staff.

As the application of tech systems becomes the norm, more and more it will be the human element that sets leaders apart. Craig Lockett, CHRO of North Texas Tollway Authority, has observed that “as much as the future will rely on computers and other software to make decisions for us, it will never replace the human touch.”

Further, Yvonne Wolf, EVP of People & Culture at the National Restaurant Association, adds that “the unique contributions of humans are what delight customers and accelerate performance.  Get the human decisions right (who we hire, what we hire them to do, how and where they work) and the competition becomes irrelevant.”

This doesn’t mean leaders should ignore tech, however. According to Adam Fridman, Founder of ProHabits, emerging tech can actually help teams live their values and increase behaviors associated with emotional intelligence.

Smart growth

Neither staying stuck in your ways, nor jumping on every bandwagon that comes along is an effective way of running a business. Too often, business leaders with an entrepreneurial mindset develop ‘shiny object syndrome’. They jump from one interesting system to another.

New apps and startups, promising the world, emerge everyday in our tech-driven environment. It’s easy for leaders and decision makers to get distracted. That’s why it’s vital leaders remain focused on what they utilize and the initiatives they undertake. As Jimmy Holloran, Principal at ParkerGale,  puts it, “great leaders must drive clarity of vision and focus on what’s most important.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. To accomplish this, leaders need to establish a steadfast vision for their business. This must be a vision that determines their values and their greater reason for being in business.

According to Scott Allison, Vice President of Professional Services at My Eye Doctor, clarity of vision “ultimately drives the confidence that impacts the customer, as well as personal leadership growth.” With a clear focus and set of goals, leaders can adapt methods as they progress and grow intelligently.

Cultural awareness

The world of work doesn’t exist in a vacuum -- it’s embedded in a particular culture, time, and place. This fact is becoming increasingly relevant as, according to Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, the younger generations in the workforce, and those soon to enter it, are the most diverse in U.S. history. The workforce is set to continue diversifying for the foreseeable future.

The most successful set of next generation leaders will be those who are aware of  the cultural differences within their workforce. Of course, this may raise the question with leaders of how to preemptive account for these changes and get ahead of them. This is where servant leadership comes to play.

Servant leadership is a leadership model geared toward serving your team and anyone who is impacted by your leadership. It doesn’t just involve an autocratic command of your team, but fosters a relationship of collaboration and reciprocity. This collaboration is essential for keeping up with changes in culture.

Hank Ostholthoff, CEO of Mabbly, when speaking on his role as the leader of a small business stated that “Culture is a reflection of leadership. Simply, my job is to recognize and encourage talent and our values. Empathy, vulnerability, and autonomy are the keys to building an organization filled with a thriving, connected, and productive workforce.”

The takeaway

Chris Pecce, Client Advisor for [24]7.ai, sums up the needs for future leaders well, stating that “The successful leaders of the future will be those who cultivate cultures that can anticipate and respond to the evolving needs of your customers. Although building such a culture involves a great deal of variables, it can be broken down into a conversation style of leadership coupled with a steady vision and a finger on the pulse of emerging trends. Digital transformation is a perfect example. Today's leaders do not want to be Blockbuster, they want to be Netflix.”

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