Andrew Pettigrew(Professor, Said Business School, University of Oxford): Well I think one of the most important roles for leaders, certainly of a big political organizations, and of large businesses, is to be able to manage across borders. And manage across boundaries. Borders of obviously the international dimension, with all the complexities of dealing with people with different values stances, different practices, and different societies.
And of course, across boundaries. Many leaders having to influence situations in organizations where we should join them where they are not in control. They don't have positional power. And therefore, they have to influence across those boundaries. And this requires a level of cooperation, requires diplomatic skill, a level of international understanding, that I think many leaders today would be sorely challenged.
Bob Johansen(Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future): So role of a leader in this future world is to engage with people in a way that's reciprocal. In other words, leaders have to become very good at giving things away in the trust that they'll get back even more in return.
Barbara Kellerman(Lecture in Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School): I am increasingly coming to believe that leaders have, in fact, much less control in the present than they did in the past. It's not as easy for them to set the template anymore. What kind of leader will I be? Simply because the messages that are coming at them. The challenges that are being thrown at them. A bunch of followers that are very rarely willing now to go easily along without protesting, asking questions. A technology that raises challenges every single second of the day. Challenges that are then instantaneously transmitted worldwide.
So I would argue that a leader, if anything, needs to be perhaps more nimble than in the past. But again, it's not as if the leader can set the stage. Any smart person who is in a position of authority, who has power, who has influence, understands that they better pay attention 360 degrees, because stuff is going to be coming at them all the time. And the day and age when the leader can simply chart a course, and that course is going to be neatly and carefully followed by a range of constituents, those days are over. No matter how participative is the individual leader.
Deborah Ancona(Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology): I think the role of the leader is perhaps to connect with other leaders. This is a world where the single leader - the heroic, omniscient, omnipotent leader is perhaps a model that is gone for good. But it doesn't mean that such people don't exist. What we need, we believe, is the notion of distributed leadership. Leadership at all levels. So you want a leader at the top. But you also want multiple leaders across the organization. And even linked to people outside in different sectors and other organizations, who can come together, work together, collaborate, and move the organization, the sector forward on strategic goals. On tackling the really difficult problems that the world has right now.
Daisy Wademan Dowling(Executive Director, Leadershipo Development at Morgan Stanley): So there's been a lot of conversation at the conference about how the world is getting less hierarchical. And about how leaders are going to have to adept at a whole new set of traits to work in a non-hierarchical world. And maybe this is a result of being the product of a financial services environment. But I'm not sure I see the world becoming less hierarchical. And maybe in many ways becoming more hierarchical. It’s more technologically driven. And that makes it less hierarchical in certain ways. But I think the structure of management is still there. So I'm not sure that I see totally different skill sets being relevant for the future. But what I do think it’s going to be very important is for leaders to become adept at communicating through different medium.
It used to be that a leader was just focused on one-on-one interpersonal interaction, or making speeches in front of a large group. And these days you have to be adept at Twitter, email, phone communication. There's just so many different ways in which a person has to present themselves. In ways they need to reach out to people they've never met, or who they work 10,000 miles away from. And be really effective at getting people together with a shared mission, and focused on a goal. So I think the adept, ambidextrous communicators will be the people who will be successful.
Dr. Ellen Langer(Professor, Harvard Univsesity): I think the role of a leader is to be in the present, so that they can again, take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. And to recognize talent, solutions, all around them. Rather than being stuck in mindsets that made sense in the past.
Evan Wittenberg(Head of Global Leadership Development, Google, Inc.): The role of leaders, kind of at all levels and in all aspects of life going forward, is really going to be about building connections between the various aspects of our world that are coming closer together. The need for businesses, and governments, and not for profit institutions, and others to work together to solve the big challenges that we have, requires leaders who are really a bridge builders. And can cross those different assumed boundaries and make the relationships and connections happen to solve the big problems that we're all facing.
Gianpiero Petriglieri(Affiliate Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD): I think it's in many ways what it's always been. Which is the role of connecting people, of serving as a bridge between who we are and who we may be. And I think it's a harder role to take in the sense that it's easier to articulate a vision for people who share the same background, experience, come from the same culture, who are somewhat insulated from alternative points of view.
It's harder to articulate, to negotiate the boundaries of a joint enterprise within a diverse community. And it's harder to do so in a community that's also constantly exposed to different sources of information, to disconfirming information, to a variety of point of view. So I would say the role of the leader is balance that paradox between direction, but also openness to alternative views.
Marshall Ganz(Lexturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School): If you see that leadership is about dealing with uncertainty, then there's two challenges. There's a motivational challenge. Which is how do I find the courage and inspire that courage in others, to deal with uncertainty, not fearfully, but hopefully.
Then the second is a strategic challenge. Which is how do I imagine new ways to use resources that I have to turn them into the capacity to get what is needed, or what I want. And that's core to what leadership's all about. In a rapidly changing world, in a multicultural world, in a globalizing world, there's just more, and more, and more uncertainty. And in that context is when the kind of moral clarity that gives us courage, and that gives us the capacity to understand others, is even more important.
Scott Snook(Associate Professor, Harvard Business School): So the role leader in a flatter world, less hierarchy, more interdependent, is back to finding purpose. How can we take all these differences, whether it's cultural differences, or social, or identity group differences, or skill differences, or different functions in an organization how do we get everybody at least finding a common purpose? And at the same time, celebrating and making the most of all the differences that they're bringing to the table. And so for me that's the biggest challenge in that new world.