New Lap Of Leadership – Jacob Morgan [Interview]
About Jacob Morgan
Jacob Morgan is one of the most influential keynote speakers. He has made his mark by publishing his best selling book ‘The Future Leader’. He’s the founder of the ‘Future Work University’ and has been helping organizations through his speeches and writings to improve the experience of employees and customers. He’s a speaker, author, and futurist, and we are sure he has a lot of experiences to share with the audience today.
We have the pleasure of welcoming Jacob Morgan today to our interview series. I’m Aishwarya Jain from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick introduction of peopleHum. peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work with AI and automation technologies. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome, Jacob. We are thrilled to have you.
Thank you for having me.
My pleasure, So, Jacob, I’m just gonna start with a very generic question.
I’m sure a lot of people ask you that, but I think this is important for our viewers to know, just for you to talk a little bit about what is ‘The Future Leader’? And what’s your vision for ‘The Future Leader’?
Sure. So the book, as you mentioned is called ‘The Future Leader’. And it really seeks to answer two questions which I was trying to figure out. In fact, I have a copy here, there you go. That’s the book, right there, so it just came out a couple of weeks ago. And so really, the goal of the book is to answer two questions which are, will the leader of 2030 be different than the leader of today? And if so, how will that leader be different?
And this was a question that I was getting asked a lot by business leaders and executives at companies all over the world. And I didn’t have any data or research on it, and I couldn’t find any data or research on it. So I decided to go out and collect it. So interviewed 140 CEOs around the world and surveyed 14,000 employees in partnership with LinkedIn and the book really identifies what are the most important skills and mindsets that leaders in the future need to have in order to be successful.
So that’s the main part of what the book is about. I look at trends shaping the future leader, the biggest challenges that leaders are gonna have to overcome, and then, by serving these 14,000 employees, we were really able to get a sense of how well are we doing today to prepare for the future. Where are the gaps between different seniority levels? And so all that research and the findings went into the book, which I think is pretty unique. I haven’t seen anything like this done before, so I’m hoping that people will find it quite useful and valuable.
Absolutely. If I get my hands on it, I am definitely gonna read that book because I think that the leaders of today, they’re facing a lot of problems, in terms of how do you really connect with your teams, and how do you make them high performers, right? So building high-performance teams is something that everybody is struggling with.
And you talk about how you need to really make goals and make them real and talk to your employees, empathize with them, right? So what do you think is the main challenge here? Well, now I can make goals and I can kind of adhere to them. But is it just a mindset issue on how am I supposed to change myself to get to that goal?
Well, so in the book I talk about four mindsets and five skills that future leaders need to have. And I mean, having goals is a part of it. I think there’s been a lot written about goals and how to set goals, and all leaders have goals. So it’s not so much how to have goals. It’s how you need to behave and how you need to think.
So, for example, I talk about the importance of curiosity, of being a lifelong learner, of being able to be tech-savvy and digitally fluent, the importance of being able to make other people more successful than you, thinking like a futurist, where you look at different scenarios and possibilities instead of just picking one path and going towards it.
I specifically look at how should a future leader think, what the future leaders specifically need to know how to do. And goals aren’t something I addressed in there too much just because, A, The CEOs didn’t tell me that is a crucial skill for future leaders because I think it’s just something that is a part of what leaders need to do and I think we’re pretty good at setting goals. But this is more around behaviors and skills as opposed to goal setting.
Right. So it’s not a lot about goal setting, but it’s more about behavior and how you change your mindset.
Yeah. Mindset and learning things that you need to know to be successful, for example, a lot of leaders need to learn more about empathy and self-awareness and emotional intelligence. A lot of leaders need to know or learn how to get better with technology, how to be tech-savvy and digitally fluent. A lot of leaders need to learn how to become better coaches to their team members, to their peers, and to their employees of the company.
A lot of leaders need to learn how to do all these different things. And a lot of leaders also need to think in different ways. They need to think in terms of how do we balance humanity and technology.
“They need to think in terms of how do we serve other people instead of having them serve us.”
So there are changes and how leaders need to think, and there is a certain set of skills that leaders need to learn how to master. And that’s ultimately what I look at with the book and a lot of the skills and mindsets that I talk about people have heard of. It’s not like, we’re making something new here.
The challenge is that a lot of leaders don’t practice their skills and mindsets. In fact, the number of leaders who practice these skills and mindsets today very well is in the single digits, maybe 8 to 9% from mid and senior-level leaders. There are a lot of opportunities here.
The other challenge is that a lot of users get promoted to that position for various reasons. A lot of the time, it’s because they’ve been at the company for a long time. Maybe they’ve brought in a lot of money. They closed some big deals, maybe because they know how to navigate the bureaucracy of the organization.
But none of these things means that these leaders should be in their roles. I mean, we look at so many stories out there of leaders who are corrupt, who don’t treat their employees well, who hurt the environment, who steal. They don’t have these skills and mindsets. They got there because of these other means of getting there.
So when I interviewed these 140 CEOs, what they told me is that to be a leader in the future, you won’t be able to be in any kind of leadership position unless you practice these things.
Whereas today, these things are important but a lot of people are still sneaking through the cracks and getting into leadership positions without being emotionally intelligent, without serving their people, without focusing on coaching. And we all work for these types of leaders. If we didn’t, engagement scores for the company around the world would be much higher than they really are. But unfortunately, a lot of people don’t like their leaders. So I’m hoping this book will change that.
Right, yeah, I think leaders need to check they go at the door and not just have the knowledge to themselves, but share it with other people because it’s all about paying it forward. And then if you cannot kind of share the knowledge with your team, then that just makes no sense, that you’re a leader and you’re not kind of playing your role there.
And also, do you think that because of the pandemic, a lot of things are now gonna change for leaders?
Yes. 100%, I mean, for sure, they’re definitely changing.
Right, they’re gonna change.
So, what is it that they should focus on right now? And how are they supposed to be prepared for what’s coming and what do you think is coming?
Well, it’s interesting because a lot of leaders now are having to lead teams that they can’t see. They’re having to lead teams who work on different hours now, instead of showing up to the office for a set period of time, they’re having to do performance management for teams that they can’t see. They’re having to focus on culture for teams that they can’t see. Having to do all these things now in a very, very different way.
They’re having to really focus on emotional intelligence now. So one of the things that I find really interesting with this whole Coronavirus Pandemic is that a lot of the conversation around technology and job automation has disappeared. You don’t hear about that on the news anymore. Instead, all the conversations you keep hearing about are the importance of being human.
We keep hearing stories about CEOs, like the CEO Visa, who says we’re not gonna lay off any employees due to the virus in 2020. But where we see videos like the CEO of Marriott, create these very passionate human videos about the impact that this is heading for his employees. And you can see him getting emotionally teary eyes as he talks about this.
So all the conversations now are much more about being a human leader, being emotionally intelligent, connecting with your people, the importance of all of this type of stuff, which I think is fantastic.
“So it really goes to show that businesses still are and for the foreseeable future will be very much human, built on relationships, built on people.”
For starters, you need to care. You care about your people, like genuinely, really care. A lot of the conversations now that you have your people, they can’t just be work conversations. You asking about families and how they’re doing and they’re struggling. It’s thinking differently.
“It’s really being more of a human being as a leader.”
I think for starters, second of all, it’s really forcing us to think differently in terms of how we communicate and collaborate and lead, right? I mean, it’s a fun thing to see somebody to be able to go over to somebody and talk to them and see their body language. It’s another thing to be able to use something like this, right?
You know, a webcam and a microphone, and so this, I think, is a challenge for leaders because they’re trying to navigate, how do we set up guidelines and how do I guide my employees so that they can still be effective and productive while they’re working remotely?
And one of the most interesting things I think that we’re gonna see out of this is that after this is all over by the end of the year, by the end of the beginning of next year, no organization is gonna be able to use, ‘we don’t have flexible work programs’ as an excuse anymore because…
“This is perhaps the biggest flexible work experiment in the history of the world.”
Millions of people around the world, business is still going on, sales are still being made, deals are still being closed, products and services are still being marketed. Everything is still functioning. But everybody’s doing it remotely.
And I know people who have been in organizations for 30-40-50 years, never worked from home, never had a flexible work program. Now they’re working from home for several weeks and months. So this is really gonna, I think, force leaders, to challenge conventional ways of working in the future. It will force us to revisit all of our outdated workplace practices, our technologies and it’s interesting.
It really is, for a lot of organizations, jumped forward like 10-20 years. So from a pure business perspective, of course, the Coronavirus is a complete tragedy. The impact that it’s having on the economy and so many families and individuals out there. From a purely business perspective, it’s really causing organizations to fast forward and really focus on their digital transformation, changing their workplace practices. So, I don’t think everything will never be the same after this is over.
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Absolutely. I think leaders are just faced with this problem that they never thought they imagined, and they were never ready for it. So now they’re just gonna scramble and try to make sense of everything that’s happening around them.
And when you talk about remote managing the teams, sometimes your teams are not even ready to show their faces, right? I mean, the video cameras off, And then okay, how did I even come to know what my employee is feeling so that becomes a very huge challenge, right?
There’s no training manual or blueprint on how to do this. I have a team of 10 people that I work with, and I’ve never been put in this kind of situation before. So, I try to be a human leader. I try to just talk to my team and say, ‘Hey, how’s everybody doing? Are you guys okay?’
We have a group Skype chat every month. We do in all hands, kind of virtual meetings together where we all turn on video. They said that they want to do it once a month. Of course, we talk every day, but I mean, getting all 10 people together on video, is something that they said, every month, we just want to check in with each other and see each other’s faces And so they kind of came up with the solution.
They said that they wanted to have this group Skype chat. We want to do a video call every month. We want to just be able to check in with each other. So I came to them with the problem and I said, ‘Look, I’ve never been in this kind of situation. What do you guys think we should do? What are your ideas? What feedback do you have?’ And together we came up with what works and supports everybody and something everybody is happy with.
So I think leaders and organizations need to do the same thing…
“Before you try to make a decision for people, why don’t you involve them in the decision-making process because like I said, there’s no blueprint for this.”
So this is where the humility, the humbleness, the vulnerability comes into play. And as a leader, it’s okay to say, look, I gotta be honest with you guys. I’m not really sure what to do here? I’ve never been faced with this. Can we just talk and I love to hear your ideas, What can I do? What can you do? And let’s see what we can figure out?
Absolutely. I think you just cannot keep pretending as a leader that you have everything right in your tool kit, everything aligned. No. I mean, you are human, and you have problems, and you just have to be transparent about that. So you become more relatable, right?
Yeah. I mean, this is a very classic example of leaders can no longer say that they have all the answers because you never know when something like this is gonna happen. And so we don’t have all the answers. And what do you do when you don’t have all the answers? The traditional approach for leaders. You make it up because nobody’s gonna question you because you’re the leader.
So just make something up, and everyone’s just gonna agree with you. But now, you can’t make things up anymore. You have to be okay with saying, ‘I don’t know. I need help. I’ve never been faced with this kind of situation before.’
“And so I think it’s really putting the emphasis on being a truly human leader and it’s showing us who the good leaders are and who the bad leaders are because if you can’t become human if you can’t embrace these things, you really should have no business being a leader of people.”
Absolutely. And it’s about emotional intelligence. So tell me something, Jacob.
Do you put emotional intelligence at a higher level than intelligence quotient?
Well, I think you need everything. There is no secret that if you’re gonna be a leader of a team, leader of a function, or a leader of a company, you obviously need to be an intelligent person, but you all seem to have the emotional intelligence. But you can’t just be good at your job, you can’t just be good at numbers, you can’t just be good at making products or services, you also need to be good at leading people from the human perspective.
So I think more and more…
“what we’re starting to see is that emotional intelligence is just as important as, if not more important than, just purely the regular intelligence aspect.”
Because you can be super smart. But if you’re a super-smart jerk and if you’re a super-smart person, nobody wants to work for or with you, it’s not gonna help you very much. So you really need to be able to have both of those things. Good at your job, good at your niche but also somebody who is good at working with and leading people.
Oh, right. Kind of like a balance between IQ and EQ to create a maximized
A lot of leaders struggle with that. I know a lot of very smart leaders out there who’ve been in the business for a long time, and you ask them how to create a product or service or how to build a company, and they’re amazing at it. But you ask them to connect with people on a human level, and they have no idea what to do.
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So you need to learn how to connect with people on a human level. Can you make friends with people? Can you build trust? Can you create psychological safety? These are essential components for running a business and for creating effective teams. And we need this now more than ever. As supposed to somebody who just knows how to run a business.
Absolutely, and climbing up the Maslow’s hierarchy, with, you’re trying to conquer every level of the pyramid and going towards self-satisfaction, self-actualization because you know you’ve kind of conquered the first few bases, the essential bases, I think. He does really have in doing that, right?
Yeah. I mean, part of being a leader and even one of the things that I talked about in the book is that this is a never-ending journey.
“You’re can’t just take a course on leadership and then all of a sudden, ‘I’m a great leader’. Things change, new things, like this Coronavirus comes our way. So we constantly need to be learning and evolving and adapting.”
It’s a never-ending journey, but it’s also probably the most rewarding thing anybody can do.
Absolutely. And you know what?
What according to you is essential to create a greater employee experience in organizations? And how culture as bearing and inclusivity, play a part in creating such a generic experience? And do you think personalization plays a part in it?
So, in my previous book, ‘The Employees Experience Advantage’, which I do have one floating around somewhere. I talked about three environments that shape employees’ experiences which are culture, technology, and physical space.
So these are the three things any organization that wants to create a great experience for their people, those are the only three things you need to focus on, culture, technology and space. And underneath each one of those environments, there are several different attributes.
So under culture, for example, there are 10 things, there are four things under physical space and three things under technology and diversity inclusion is one of the components that fits under culture. So it does matter. But it also means that just because you have a diverse and inclusive organization doesn’t by itself mean that you’re gonna create great experiences for your people because you need to focus on all the other aspects of culture.
“Things like, diversity inclusion, making sure your employees are treated fairly, purpose and meaning, health and wellbeing, coaching and mentoring like all these other different aspects matter.”
But if you have a diverse and inclusive environment, but you have outdated workplace practices, the spaces look terrible, the employees don’t have modern tools to do their job, there’s no health and wellbeing program, nobody’s being coached and mentored, if none of these other things are there, I don’t care how diverse and inclusive your organization is, the overall experience that your company has is still gonna be bad.
So diversity inclusion does matter. It is a part of the cultural aspect of employees’ experience, but I think organizations are constantly asking, ‘What’s the one thing we can do?’ There’s no one thing. There’s no low hanging fruit here. Organizations need to stop thinking like that because people are complex. Organizations are complex, employee experience, it’s not an easy thing to do. So as much as diversity and inclusion are important, we need to also look at these other things too.
Yeah, it’s kind of a grey area because you’re kind of getting involved with such diverse kinds of people out there, right?
But what is the simple part? In this, is it the tech side, is its tools, can tools really help creating a great employee experience?
Well, technology is 30% of the overall employees experience, and these are the tools and resources employees have access to do their job. Hardware devices, software apps, all of these things are a part of the technology environment for employees’ experience, and technology is the central nervous system of the organization.
It’s what allows a lot of these things when we say the future of work to be a reality, like real-time recognition and feedback, flexible work, that is technology. Without technology, you can do any of that stuff. So it matters. It matters quite a bit.
Right. And I think if you use it prudently and you use it in the right way can really be a great enabler for you to kind of, be prepared for the future, for because, that’s where everyone’s headed. But nobody really knows what’s coming their way, that thing. It’s better to wait at this point in time, right?
And what’s your take on the millennial workforce and the gig economy rising? So we have different kinds of categorizations. We’ve got the contract workers, people who are on projects, assignments. People are freelancers. Do you think this trend is relevant with respect to the future of work?
Yeah, I mean, it’s growing. There are a lot of gig workers out there, and I think it’s certainly going to increase. But a lot of the reports and studies that were done, very much overinflated the numbers by far for the foreseeable future. And most people in the world are gonna be employed full time for an organization.
“We’re not gonna have like hundreds of millions of people who are working for themselves out there. It’s just not a reality. So, I think, full-time employment is not gonna go away anytime soon.”
But the trend towards gig work is also increasing, so it’s something to pay attention to. But it’s not to the point of, full-time employment will be replaced by gig work. I don’t think it’s anywhere near close, for that to be happening, so people shouldn’t think that that’s on the horizon. But they still should pay attention to gig work because it is increasing.
And technically, I suppose I’m considered a gig worker. When I give talks to organizations, so it’s a great way to be in control of your life in control of your career. I’m a big fan of it. It’s not for everybody, and I don’t think it’s gonna replace full-time employment for the majority of people in the world.
And you do also propagate that now it’s a great time when you could be your own boss?
Yeah. My wife and I actually started our podcast two weeks ago called the B.Y.O.B podcast, which anyone if interested, it’s BYOBpodcast.com. And ya, my wife and I, we both believe that the only job security that exists is the one that you can create for yourself.
As we see now, as much as there are wonderful organizations out there, when something like Coronavirus happens, when an organization doesn’t meet its numbers, if you’re having things that you’re struggling with, the company’s gonna let you go. There’s no organization out there, or very few organizations out there, that are really going to put you first.
“So nobody’s gonna look out for you, but you.”
So I fundamentally believe, and my experiences have shown me. See this from people all over the world who get laid off or fired or whatever happens, and it happened to my wife as well. That when the company struggles, people are the first to go. So, I am a big believer if you can. If you can make it happen to be your own boss, control your own destiny, build your own path, and don’t rely on anyone else.
Yeah, absolutely. Because I think organizations talk a lot about people. People are our main asset, and we focus a lot on our people. But people are also the first expendable assets when it comes to such times. And in such crisis times, right?
Yeah, I mean, it happens all the time, unfortunately. So, I mean, that’s one of the reasons why my wife and I put this podcast out.
Yeah, that is wonderful. And I think it will help a lot of viewers and listeners kind of comprehend what the situation is, what’s happening with them, and how they can cope with it. Because I think a lot of people are struggling with that and that’s something beautiful that you’re doing and, really, thank you. And kudos to you for that. And, just ending the discussion here.
I want to ask you if there are any important sound bites that you’d like to leave us with.
Probably the most important thing I can tell people is, if you don’t think about and plan for the future of work, then you are not gonna have a future. And this is true for your organization or for yourself in your personal life.
Don’t assume that your company or an educational institution is gonna teach you everything you need to know to be successful, personally or professionally. You gotta take things into your own hands. And it’s never been easier to do that with all the tools and resources we have at our disposal. I mean, I’m learning things all the time.
I’m constantly trying to learn new things. I try to do something every year that I didn’t do the year before, whether it’s starting a daily vlog, whether it’s launching courses, whether it’s learning more about marketing, whatever it is, every year I do something for the business that I didn’t do the year before.
And I think a lot of people need to think that way of not waiting for a company to say, ‘Hey, you know, your job is changing. Maybe you should learn this’. You need to know that before your company tells you so.
“I think the biggest piece of advice I can offer people is to take more control over your life, over your career because nobody’s gonna look out for you. But you.”
Absolutely. That’s a wonderful message. Be informed and create your own knowledge base so that no one can question you. And you’re well prepared with all the weapons in your toolkit. Yeah, right. Thank you so much. You go for that wonderful message and a wonderful conversation. I think it’s really been a learning experience for me. I learned something today. And I think our viewers too will learn from that, so thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure having you.
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Take care and have a great day, Jacob.
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