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Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution – 5 Questions Answered.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we live, work and associate with one another. It forms part of our human development, supported and empowered by exceptional technology advances. In the words of Robert J. Shiller, 2013 Nobel laureate in economics, Professor of Economics at Yale University: “You cannot wait until a house burns down to buy fire insurance on it. We cannot wait until there are massive dislocations in our society to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” This is why you have to learn as much as you can about 4IR and prepare yourself and your business. But what is this 4th Industrial Revolution and how does leadership in business fit into it all? Here are some questions answered:

What is the definition of The 4th Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (aka 4IR or Industry 4.0) is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, collectively referred to as cyber-physical systems.

The 4IR builds on the foundations of the *first three industrial revolutions. The 4th is that of cyber systems etc. It’s a combination of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other advanced technologies fast becoming imperative to the way we live today. This tech is solving modern-day problems. It is already taking over most platforms and industries, making life easier every day. For example, Facebook’s ability to recognise you and your friend’s names from your photos to enable you to tag them. Today we have virtual assistants like Bixby or Siri. There is Google home, which you can talk to by asking various types of questions and receive answers almost instantly. There are GPS systems that suggest the fastest route to a destination. There is even a 3D printer that can print you an organ if you need one…

Executive Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum and author of a book titled The Fourth Industrial Revolution Klaus Schwab, wrote in an article published in 2016: “like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.”

What does Leadership in The 4th Industrial Revolution mean for businesses?

The 4IR is changing all aspects of doing business at a rapid rate and particularly within the leadership domain. Leaders and employees find themselves asking what does it mean to be human in the 4IR? There are constant attempts to reduce the need for human employment. Experts reckon that humans will never be made obsolete. However, changes in business dynamics, strategies, and leadership roles are being underestimated.

Leaders should be more realistic when preparing their workforce for the future. Avoiding this won’t help, Industry 4.0 is coming fast, whether you want it or not. Leaders of business should be focussed on the challenges they face now and will face in the future, and then they must strategize with actions that will lead their business into the 4IR. The successful growth, productivity and the wellbeing of their human workforce will depend solely on the leaders for guidance and strategy.

Although many leaders are motivated by the promise of new revenue and growth, they are struggling to develop effective strategies because of new changes and challenges happening so fast. Some have grave difficulty understanding all the new technology-driven opportunities and lack the soft skills to assist them with decision making, problem solving, communication, etc.

What Leadership Skills do you need, to be successful in The 4th Industrial Revolution?

“The youth unemployment rate in South Africa is staggering, and increased from 54.7% in the fourth quarter of 2018 to 55.2% in the first quarter of 2019. The unemployment rate is highest among people aged 15 to 34, according to Statistics South Africa.” This is according to an **article published in the Mail & Guardian on 29 June 2019 by Onyi Nwaneri. She goes on the write “In the 2018 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa, it stated that sub-Saharan Africa has a global share of high-skilled employment of only 6%, in contrast to the global average of 24%. It is forecast that with the impending disruption to jobs and skills brought about by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), 39% of core skills required across occupations in South Africa will be wholly different by 2020.”

This is a clear indication that a new Leadership skillset is in high demand. The Mindspa Institute summarized a list of some of the necessary skills needed to succeed in Industry 4.0.

  • Emotional Intelligence – Machines don’t understand what makes each human individual tick. They cannot easily replace a human being’s ability to connect with another human being in terms of emotion, empathy, integrity etc. A leader with a high EQ will be in high demand in the future because they will be self-aware and will be able to work well with others.
  • Change Management– future leaders should accept that there will be a lot of changes in various aspects happening extremely fast. They need to equip themselves with change management skills to view the changes as opportunities for growth and evolvement.
  • Diversity Management – having cultural intelligence is paramount. Understanding the difference in culture, various backgrounds, gender, languages etc. is a reality of the diverse workforce evolving every day in business. How to understand, adapt and manage a diverse workforce will improve how people work together and act around each other.
  • Critical Thinking– if leaders master the skill of analytical/critical thinking, he/she would be able to solve complex problems and find innovative solutions. Having these skills will equip leaders to steer the alliance between humans and machines needed to improve the productivity of the workforce.
  • Focused, quick and constant learning– A leader who realises and recognises that there are new skills to learn every day, quickly, and constantly upskills him/herself, will be a rich commodity for any business.
  • Technologically advanced– Tech-savvy leaders will stand out above all. Not only referring to the hard skills of coding and understanding things like robotics, internet of things, data, artificial intelligence, etc. but also the ability of the leaders to have conversations and make decisions about the essentials of technology, to embrace it and to equip the business for the future.
  • Workforce flexibility and well-being – there will be a various shift in demand from workers and workspaces. Leaders should become more flexible. Flexibility with the workforce and investment in their well-being, especially in an age of tech.

What type of Leader will be successful in 4IR?

The World Economic Forum identified 4 types of leaders who will thrive in the 4IR published in an ****article on their website in January 2019. In summary, these four types of leader are as follow:

  1. Social Supers. These leaders find the balance between doing good and profitability and their businesses grow because of it. They also invest in their employees’ training and education. They are willing to train their workers.
  2. Data-Driven Decisive. Some leaders who overcome challenges by “taking methodical, data-focused approaches to strategic decision-making” are the ones who embrace the benefits of 4IR.
  3. Disruption Drivers. These leaders want to introduce disruptive innovations into various industries in order to set their organizations apart from competitors. They implement more defined decision-making processes, and they usually make “data-driven decisions with input from diverse sets of stakeholders.”
  4. Talent Champions. The leaders who are preparing their workers for digital transformation invest in upskilling and retraining for the future. This automatically means that they have “societal impact and are seeing early returns from their progressive efforts – and 64% have already generated new revenue streams for their organizations through socially driven initiatives.”

Why is Leadership an Integral part of The 4th Industrial Revolution?

Klaus Schwab calls for both leaders and employees to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.” However, leaders are expected to pave the way and help team members adapt and change with the times, be it through education and training or by human connectivity.

4IR is an unstoppable force that will have a huge impact on the way we live and work. At The Mindspa Institute we created a one day workshop to explain 4IR and how to use it as a Management Tool in your Organisation.

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