Renewing your license to lead

Who is the workplace leader of the future and what characteristics will they need to succeed? Dr John Blakey explains why CEOs and leaders will need to rely upon the power of trust rather than trusting in power.

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This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine – the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.
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As baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “The problem with the future is that it ain’t what it used to be.” And the future world of leadership will be very different from the one in which most managers have learned their current leadership skills. The converging trends of technology, diversity, Generation Y and globalisation are creating a brutal storm of transparency – a world where nothing can be hidden.The future leader will be held to ruthless accountability by educated stakeholders who are expecting a broader contribution than simply making lots of money. These stakeholders will have an agenda that incorporates social justice, climate change, inclusivity and mental wellbeing. A leadership job that was already difficult is going to require a whole new set of skills. The future leader will need a new licence to lead. Are you up for the challenge?

Trust is key for future leaders

The new licence of leadership will require managers to rely upon the power of trust rather than trusting in power. What does this mean? It means that traditionally our leadership credibility has been earned through intellectual prowess and the expert use of authority to improve singular outcomes, such as maximising profit. However, in a world where deference to authority is collapsing and purpose-led, emotionally intelligent leaders are coming to the fore, our leadership credibility will need to be earned from building human trust, not exercising expert authority.Spring Issue 2020 out nowTo build human trust, research demonstrates that leaders will need to work on three mutually reinforcing capabilities: ability, integrity and benevolence. Indeed, the formula for trust is: trust = ability × integrity × benevolence.When I share this formula with the leaders I coach, most instinctively understand the need for ability and integrity, but few have a grasp of the word “benevolence”, which means wishing well for others. It means common human care, compassion and kindness.

Rewriting the rules on trust and leadership with Dr John Blakey 

What makes a benevolent leader?

None of the leaders I work with have attended the ‘introduction to benevolence’ course for senior managers, because in the old world, benevolence was a nice-to-have. In the new world, which relies upon the power of trust, benevolence becomes the must-have differentiator that renews our licence to lead.How does a leader ‘do’ benevolence? Through my own research at Aston Business School, I have identified that there are nine habits of trust; three for each of the components of ability, integrity and benevolence. The three habits of benevolence are: evangelise, be brave, be kind. Leaders who evangelise get on the front foot to spread the good news about their business and their brand. They counter the tide of social-media cynicism with an equally relentless and passionate campaign to promote an inspiring, purpose-led vision.Leaders who are brave know there is a moment when the leader is expected to self-sacrifice in support of a goal that is bigger than their own personal survival. It is a quaint idea, but moral bravery inspires trust.
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Finally, benevolent leaders have the capacity to be kind. This does not mean they do not make tough decisions, are not performance-focused, clear-eyed and strategic. What it means is that as they do all those things, they retain the capacity to connect with their fellow human beings and treat them with dignity and respect. As one CEO I interviewed put it, “The leader doesn’t need to do everything, but they do need to care about everything.”So are you one of these future leaders? Do you have the will to renew your licence to lead in a world where nothing can be hidden? Can you do benevolence, alongside doing ability and doing integrity? If “yes”, then you will be glad that the future ain’t what it used to be because you will come to find that now is your time.

About the author

Dr John Blakey is a CEO executive coach, thought leader and global keynote speaker. As the founder of The Trusted Executive Foundation, he is committed to helping organisations and CEOs achieve their goals by relying upon the power of trust rather than trusting in power. His book The Trusted Executive was shortlisted as the CMI Book of the Year in 2016 and he was named as a top 100 thought leader in trust by Trust Across America. For more info, visit:

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