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Career advice

Critical Leadership Skills for Tomorrow’s Workplace

Critical Leadership Skills for Tomorrow’s Workplace


Sarah Spence

June 12, 2019

Career advice

Leaders in today’s workplace have to be robust and resilient people. The workplace is changing at a rapid pace and the expectations of team members is moving just as fast.

Trying to keep up with it all is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. The essential skills needed to lead today, will put you in good stead to lead the workplaces of tomorrow.

We spoke to Paul Diaz, Assoc Director Talent & Leadership at Optus and Sampson Oliver, Tech Lead at A Cloud Guru to hear about their insights into the key skills tomorrow’s leaders need, and how to improve those skills in yourself.

The evolution of the workplace

Does your workplace look and feel like it did 10 years ago?

Doubt it! Most workplaces have come a long way in a decade. And almost every aspect of our work has changed.

Here’s what things looked like just 10 years ago:

  • Technology: Working from home involved a desktop and a VPN token
  • Layout: You had a dedicated desk, and probably a lockable set of drawers for all your paperwork
  • Roles: Did you have a Social Media Manager or Data Scientist at your company? The answer is probably ‘No’
  • Outputs: Your clients and customers knew you had office hours, and rarely expected a response outside these times

In 2019, however, the gloves are off

Workplaces are now hives of activity across various offices, homes, co-working spaces and transport options.

The variety of roles that each team needs is also ever-expanding, and the roles needed for the future are largely unknown. Dell Technologies’ report estimates 85% of the jobs today’s learners will fill in 2030 haven’t yet been invented.

Interestingly, the people who bring the skills necessary for those new roles to your company have much higher expectations around their workspaces, entitlements and progression opportunities. In fact, only 57% of millennials plan to stay in their current job beyond two years, making employee retention a whole new playing field.

Is this the new norm? Or can we expect even more change?

Given workplaces have changed this much in just 10 years, imagine what they’ll be like in another 10 years, or 20, or 30?

That’s why today’s – and tomorrow’s – leaders need different skills to those of the past.

Essential leadership skills: Have you got what it takes?

The essential leadership skills needed for tomorrow’s workplace are less about WHAT you do, and more about HOW you do it. Australia’s top tech leaders agree successful modern leaders are those who focus on the human aspects of their roles.

So, what exactly are these skills?

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Connection
  • Growth mindset


65% of leaders say communication is the most critical leadership skill for future success, according to BlessingWhite’s 2018 report, Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. Why? Strong communication skills are the pathway to engaging your whole team, in order to:

  • build trust
  • show empathy
  • inspire
  • identifying new opportunities

Without strong communication skills, leaders can’t effectively manage their teams – in either today’s or tomorrow’s workplaces.


Optus is one of the most forward-thinking brands when it comes to leadership. As part of their successful leadership programs, they identified three core skills that leaders need. Diaz at Optus says the first is collaboration.

“Internal fragmentation in a business can undermine both positive customer experience and innovation, so leaders need the skills to create a culture of collaboration within and across teams,” he says. “This involves being able to engage productively and constructively with people, connect work to a common purpose, being open to feedback, and sharing knowledge and experiences.”

Collaboration plays a critical role in culture, which Australia’s top Tech leaders identified as the most important factor in ensuring their companies succeed. Without collaboration, businesses can fragment internally, which then undermines both positive customer experience and innovation.

Collaboration as a leadership skill means:

  • Engaging positively and constructively with people
  • Connecting your team’s work to a common purpose
  • Being open to feedback
  • Graciously sharing knowledge and experiences


The second of Optus’ essential leadership skills is the ability to connect to, and genuinely care for, the people you lead. As Diaz says, “This has never been as important as it is now, and it will continue to grow in importance in the future.”

Workplaces today are facing constant, high-velocity change. This change means teams have to become more agile and furiously innovate to exceed customer expectations.

On top of this, conditions are demanding. People need to feel acknowledged and supported in order to keep thriving in tomorrow’s workplace.

Growth mindset

Another skill Optus values in its leaders is that of a ‘growth mindset’. As companies continue to digitally transform, leading with a growth mindset is increasingly important.

A ‘growth mindset’ means fostering an underlying belief that you, as a leader, aren’t limited. It means believing that your abilities, ways of thinking and intelligence can continue to grow with time and experience.

From Diaz’ perspective, a ‘growth mindset’ also includes key elements like:

  • Focusing on the impact you and your team can make
  • Relishing new opportunities
  • Being willing to take on feedback

This skill is particularly important for tomorrow’s workplace, as the practice of change management grows to encompass more than just reactively managing individual changes. Instead, change becomes constant, and needs to be led from a place of excitement about every new opportunity on the horizon.

A growth mindset will also help you stay competitive, and foster every competitive advantage at your fingertips.

Oliver at A Cloud Guru agrees that continual learning and feedback is key to fostering a culture of growth:

“What we really aim to do at A Cloud Guru is make sure that we, ourselves, never stop learning,” he says. “As leaders, we look to foster a culture of learning among the people we lead: encourage employees to not just share ideas and knowledge, but generate new ones as well, and really cultivate these knowledge feedback cycles between everyone in the business.”

For Oliver, effective leadership isn’t just about leading – it’s also about empowering employees to be their best.

“Passionate people that are encouraged to be at the top of their class will want to stay ahead, will want to assess new technologies, and will want to bring these in when it will drive value to the business.”

Seeking a culture of leadership success  

If you’re serious about becoming a leader for tomorrow’s workplace, you need to seek out companies with a culture of leadership success.

That means you need to find companies that value and recognise these skills, and actively invest in them.

Ready for a role within a culture of leadership success?

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