Leaders to watch in 2014

Scott Bales

Successful evolution requires strong and creative leadership, particularly in the face of the rapid evolution of marketplaces, consumers and technology. When Moore's Law was published, its model of exponential rates of change seemed unbelievable. Today, it still guides the semiconductor sector, the core industry in today's digital world. The accelerating global pace of change today is comparable in certain respects to Moore's law. Since the turn of the century, emerging markets have become hotbeds of innovation, the digital revolution has arrived (along with digital natives), social networks have become ubiquitous, a collaborative economy has been born, and the voice of the people has reinvented markets and overturned governments through accelerated causal scale. So it comes as no surprise that the leaders who have shaped the past 10 years have been increasingly tech savvy, a skill that true masters can use as a way to 'see into the crystal ball.'

When we think of leaders to watch in 2014, we will tend to expect leaders who will be capturing the headlines and generating success for their business or organisation, and to some degree, that will be true. However, we need to look deeper, for the qualities that make up these leaders to help us recognise truly innovative leaders even before they reach fame. The challenge for today's leaders is not accurately predicting the future, or inventing what comes after Facebook, or even crowdfunding green energy (all of which were hot topics for 2013). Rather, it is about first having a broad and open understanding of the trends that are reshaping the world, coupled with an informed point of view on the future and what it means for our world. The final and definitely the most important quality is laying the foundations today to begin to prepare. Business (and to some degree political) leaders who continue to act as if the old rules still apply will find their organisations left behind, as Borders, Blockbuster, Kodak and Nokia have so elegantly shown.

Who are the new leaders?

The leaders that have shown a natural fit in the new world are driven, innovative, intelligent and young. These leaders appear wise beyond their years, have risen up in their industries and on their missions to become voices of their generation. From entrepreneurs to actresses and activists, 2013 came to life through the leadership of names like Snowden, Spiegel, Bezos, Zuckerburg, Dorsey, Pope Francis (yes, the Pope is young), Musk and Hoffman. All leaders who have created amazing machines around themselves that enable them to essentially see the future, and move to where the people are going. This is a tough act to replicate without the right preparation. Some might argue against the inclusion of the name Snowden but his impact on the world will be felt for decades, even if he never surfaces again. New York Times' James Traub even went as far to call Snowden, 'Man of the Year,' a sentiment I can relate to, given his single-handed drive for transparency, which is a key cultural value of generation Z, the millennials.

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