Future Leaders Must Be Able To Adapt To Rapid Change, Says Citrix CEO

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Through his decades-long career in technology, David Henshall has seen some major changes.

But those changes and the speed at which they occurred pale in comparison to what will happen in the future.

David is president and CEO of Citrix, a software company with more than 8,000 global employees. He has been recognized for his strong leadership skills, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he saw the writing on the wall and had engineers improve the customer interface and prepare to scale to handle the changing needs of customers before the pandemic hit full force.

I had the chance to talk to David pre-COVID for my book, The Future Leader. No one could have predicted a global pandemic when we talked, but the ideas David shared about future leaders are especially poignant in today’s landscape. He believes the pace of change will only increase in coming years and that leaders need to adapt and evolve. We’ve seen that need over the last year and will see it intensify in the future.

Accepting The Pace Of Change

One of the defining features of the future of work will be the astounding pace of change. This speed is both a challenge and an opportunity for leaders and their organizations. The breakneck speed can be overwhelming and cause some companies to get disrupted. But when leaders stay ahead of the pace of change, they can become industry leaders.

David said this: “Both the rate and the pace of change have been accelerating and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. As a result, disruption can come from anywhere and from any size company. This speed changes everything from how we lead to how we create products to how we service customers. Leaders must understand and accept that this is the new world they will have to lead in. The only way to succeed in this world is by challenging the status quo.”

Future leaders can’t be overwhelmed or intimidated by the pace of change. Instead of avoiding it or clinging to the past, they need to lean into it and have it push them towards the future. The pace of change affects every aspect of business, and leaders need to set the tone for the rest of the company.

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Developing Adaptability

The rapid pace of change affects everything else about the future of leadership, including how companies operate, hire and retain talent, and adopt new technology.

To keep up, David believes all leaders need to develop adaptability. He says that the ability to take in information, experiment, fail fast, and innovate will be crucial for leaders.

As technology increases, businesses will have shorter cycles than they had in the past, so the idea of a multi-year rollout will become incredibly rare. Leaders need to know how to experiment and disrupt themselves so they can adapt to changing trends and technology.

David calls it internal entrepreneurship — even leaders of large companies need to think like entrepreneurs and not be afraid to try new things. The leaders and companies that take the best risks will be rewarded with growth and success.

David put it this way: “New competitors can pop up almost overnight. Because of that, you can’t become complacent and think that what worked last year is going to work next year. It keeps it interesting and keeps businesses very dynamic.”

Becoming Digitally Fluent

One of the most important concrete skills for future leaders will be digital fluency. Technology is the lifeblood of future businesses, and David says it’s important for leaders to understand the context around it, whether it’s the technology trends, the impact of social media, or even generational fluency.

Becoming digitally fluent is part of a leader’s need to be continually learning. A leader doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of every piece of technology, but they do need to have a basic understanding of what it is, what it can do, and why it matters.

When a leader is digitally fluent, they can better adapt and keep up with the pace of change. Building digital skills sets the foundation for future success.

The future of work is arriving at breakneck speed. To be ready for the fast-paced future, leaders need to become adaptable and digitally fluent. Leaders who develop these skills can lead the charge for future improvements and disruptions.

If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

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