The future of leadership: 8 essential skills for leaders of the future

As the future of work changes, so too does the work environment and that necessitates that company cultures evolve. In turn the demands on tomorrow’s business leaders will grow. Building capability to mastering these changes will help make sure you stay on top.

tomorrow’s business leaders

So what makes a strong business leader?

Determination. Confidence. The ability to inspire and the trust of your team.

But for business leaders, is this enough?

As the nature of our working environments change, and new generations graduate to the workforce, it’s imperative that you can respond to everyone’s needs.

In this article, we’ll discuss eight soft skills that are crucial to the future of leadership.

Two-way learning.

 Two-way learning is all about reciprocity; shared values and experiences; motivation and better relationships. Create an environment that moves away from lecturing and encourages collaboration and sustainability.

One such way to do this is by introducing an effective mentoring programme. This constructive approach to interacting with your team will develop your own abilities as well as improve theirs, passing on valuable experience and know-how. 


It is proven that teamwork, innovation and creativity all thrive in more diverse working environments. Your team’s strength lies in its people, and supporting them effectively is key to maximising potential – including your own as the future of leadership. As a leader, you are only as good as their performance.

You need to be able to bring together the best individuals, and then help realise their strengths and talents – regardless of background or gender. Encourage equal opportunity, build confidence and help everyone produce their best work.


An effective business leader must adapt to the changes taking place in their industry – it’s a case of keep up or fall behind. The pace on change is unrelenting.

One of the most common industry trends is the greater potential for flexible working. You need to be able to effectively manage all the moving parts within your team, no matter where they’re working from.


Today’s consumer is particularly savvy, especially in a digital age where information is so easy to come by – and you can’t get people to get care until they know that you care.

Act with compassion, communicate genuinely and handle your relationships openly. Only then will you be able to deliver a unique and enjoyable experience for your customers – and create an inspiring and aspirational place to work for all your team. 

Relationship development.

This is all about your ability to build and maintain relationships with your colleagues through positivity, acknowledgement and control of your emotions.

It won’t be new to you that people look to leaders for reassurance, confidence and a calm spot in the storm. But how often do you self-reflect on your own ability to provide this? Do you create a safe space for them to thrive?


On the other side of relationship development is your ability to empathise and communicate with your colleagues on an emotional level.

Be open to their needs. Perhaps they’ve got a young family and are struggling to spend enough time with their children – could you show more support and offer flexible working? Encourage open discussion about finding the working relationship that works best for you, your business and your employees.

And what about recognition? Do you make sure that achievements are given proper acknowledgement? Making your employees and colleagues feel valued is vital to their job performance and personal wellbeing. People want a modern business leader that cares about their contribution.


Sometimes, your employees just need an ear.

Are you available when your employees need to vent or discuss their frustrations? Do you promote an open-door policy for suggestions and ideas? Can you take constructive criticism well? And are you well-equipped to handle all of these scenarios adequately?

The ability to listen is a crucial skill part for every modern business leader. Can you listen without judgement, bias or prejudice? This is needed for the future of leadership.

Emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage oneself and your relationships with other people.

It’s divided into four parts: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

  • Self-awareness – being aware of your own emotions, accurately assessing your own emotional state and self-confidence
  • Social awareness – understanding others, being aware of their emotional states, your service orientation and attitude towards others, and how aware you are of the impact of diversity
  • Self-management – a combination of self-control, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, innovation, personal drive and motivation, committed, initiate and optimism
  • Relationship management – as mentioned above, this is how well you build and maintain a relationship with your colleagues

EI is recognised as one of the most important traits of successful leaders.

Bringing your skills together.

Volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.

The requirements of a modern business leader are the result of changing work cultures, and the nature of how you need to lead your people.

We operate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – commonly known by the acronym VUCA. All leaders of the future need to understand how to navigate this, provide direction, a sense of purpose, adaptability and resilience.

By developing the eight soft skills we’ve covered, you’ll be well-armed for the future of leadership.

To learn more about the leadership programmes, Ricoh can facilitate for you and for further advice on the use of the Apprenticeship Levy feel free to get in touch on LinkedIn.

For example our Level 5 programme ‘Inspire’ involves;

  • Module One: Introduction to Leadership
  • Module Two: Leader as a Coach and Mentor
  • Module Three: Behaving as a Leader
  • Module Four: Strategy In Action
  • Module Five: Inspiring Change
  • Module Six: Inspiring Teams
  • Module Seven: Inspiring the Future

It focuses on Managers of Managers and upon successful completion, learners are accredited Chartered Managers with the Chartered Managers Institute.

Additionally, check out our Future of Work report. This examines the mass of trends and technology that are influencing how, when and where people work. Read this article to find out more.

Ian Gregory

Leadership & Talent specialist at Ricoh UK & Ireland

Read all articles by Ian Gregory