What skills will leaders need in the future?

Justin Cooke, 30 November 2017


The work mindset of routine and fixed procedure is over. We need to become better at retaining our inherent childhood ability and propensity to adapt and evolve, topping up skills on demand.

Critical thinking

We need to spend more time learning how to ask the right questions and less on how to answer them. If you can critically analyse and question the cause, you are one step away from solving the problem.

Communicate, code and debug

To lead, we have to understand the technology that drives the way we communicate and innovate.

Initiative and entrepreneurship

Initiative and entrepreneurial skills will move from the sidelines of leadership to the core, inspiring a new generation of doers and innovators who seek out new opportunities, ideas and strategies for improvement.

Creativity and curiosity

Einstein famously said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” With automation affecting one in five jobs, the world’s information at our fingertips and algorithms making decisions, it will take a powerful imagination to envision breakthroughs and then execute them.


Domain knowledge and hard skills will become commoditised. History will show that the more empathetic the leader of an organisation is, and the better their ability to communicate this empathy across a plethora of channels, the higher its growth and productivity rates will be.

Collaboration and influencing

With a contingent workforce made up of non-permanent and remote workers working in the cloud at locations across the planet, tomorrow’s leaders will be less about top-down command and control and more about being adept at influencing diverse groups, collaborating towards a common purpose.

Justin Cooke is vice-chair of Unicef UK. He founded digital media agency Fortune Cookie and was chief executive of Possible UK, before becoming a venture partner with Northzone. Justin’s non-executive experience includes being a digital advisor to the government, the British Museum and Age UK.