What skills will tomorrow’s leaders need?

What skills will tomorrow’s leaders need?

As most educators would agree, the pace of societal and technological change is not easy to keep up with, especially amid the busy schedules of the school year.

When terms like ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, ‘21st century skills’ and ‘innovative learning’ are used loosely, we risk missing the inherent complexity behind them. In other words, their concepts involve much more than simply knowing how to code or operate a 3D printer.

Teachers, particularly those in under-resourced schools, are often left worrying about whether they’re sufficiently preparing their students for the future world. However, some argue that achieving this does not require possessing the latest ed-tech gadgets.

‘Ed-tech isn’t the cure’

Adam Geller, a US classroom teacher turned ed-tech founder and book author, said “more ed-tech in our schools” isn't the cure-all we should be demanding as parents, community members, and business leaders.

“Outside the classroom, I constantly hear and read stories about equipment purchases in schools – more computers, tablets, projectors, 3D printers – but to what end?” Geller wrote in Forbes.

“Maybe we’re clamoring to put more technology into classrooms for the sake of saying it’s there. Our schools are filled with enough unused technology.”

The same is certainly true in Australian schools, many of which are in the process of rejigging their STEM programs to keep up with the demands of the job market and advances in technology.

However, a growing body of research suggests that the skills our future leaders will need are centered more on the human mind than anything external to it.

Skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity don’t require technology, but the fact that up to 40% of Australian jobs will be automated within 10-15 years means that a thorough understanding of current and emerging technologies is crucial.

With this in mind, private sector-school partnerships are providing students across Australia with mentoring, upskilling and advice on how to thrive in the future workplace.

On Saturday, Australia’s most prominent leaders will gather at the 21st Century Leadership Summit at UNSW in Sydney to share their insights about leadership, digital disruption, diversity and inclusion.

By bringing together some of the most successful CEOs and leaders to share their views and thoughts on leadership, summit attendees will gain rare insight into how successful leaders think and behave and what kinds of characteristics ‘leaders of tomorrow’ will need to have in order to navigate leadership in the future.

Shahid Majeed, founder and CEO of E-LEAD, said the leaders of tomorrow will need to fully understand how to embrace diversity and achieve inclusion.

“They will need to understand how innovation and digital disruption is going to affect our lives, our work places and our behaviours,” Majeed said.

“These things are essential if our future leaders are going to lead our businesses, communities and economies in a truly meaningful, harmonious, respectful, and responsible way.”

‘Don’t just replace old behaviours’

Lisa Kirkland, who heads up Harrington Public School, located in NSW, spoke at last year’s Educator Leaders’ Summit on the topic of preparing students with 21st century skills.

With an eye on equipping students for the future world, the school has been supporting and developing student agency across all areas of learning, as well as staff mapping and designing lessons that not only meet syllabus requirement but support a broader exposure to the world students live in.

“Leader need to see that using technology in schools shouldn’t be about the technology replacing an old behaviour or mindset, such as apps become worksheets, websites become textbooks,” Kirkland told The Educator.

“This is ok but it shouldn’t be the basis for working technologically – it needs to be about how to develop the technologies, utilise coding, explore the development of coding sequences to problem solve and create.”

Kirkland said schools will need to reflect on whether they are developing technological thinking or “just replacing old behaviours”.

“Our kids can learn to play games, use an app or research without time being allocated for this at schools, but this is what they do outside of school anyway, and often from a very young age,” she said.