Business Strategy | Leadership / Management

Three questions for tomorrow’s leaders: Don’t flunk this quiz

The CPA profession needs new leaders. We need ‘em by the truckload.

Here’s the problem: We’re training tomorrow’s leaders to work like yesterday’s leaders.

So says Roselinde Torres, a leadership expert and managing director at the New York office of The Boston Consulting Group.

In a new TED talk, Torres says more than half of today’s businesses aren’t prepared to turn the reins over to new leadership. Why? Because the ways in which they’ve trained their new leaders are woefully outdated, “based largely on success models for a world that was, not a world that is or that is coming,” she said.

“In a world that is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of a complex matrix, relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader,” Torres said.

So how do we define 21st century leadership? Torres said we’ll find the answer by asking ourselves three questions:

  1. Where are you looking for life’s next big changes? Torres says you can answer that question with a series other questions: Who are you spending time with? On what topics? Where are you traveling? What are you reading? How are you distilling all of this information into decisions about tomorrow? “Great leaders are not heads-down,” Torres said. “They see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.”
  2. How diverse is your network? The more it crosses biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, or socioeconomic boundaries, the better. “Great leaders understand that having a more diverse network is a source of solutions, because you have people who are thinking differently than you.”
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past? “Great leaders dare to be different,” Torres said. “They don’t just talk about risk-taking, they actually do it. … Interestingly, the people who will join you are not the usual suspects in your network. They’re often people who think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap — and it’s a leap, not a step.”

Interesting, isn’t it, how all of these things come down to you. Where are you looking for change? Who are you adding to your network? What risks are you taking?

It’s all about choices, people.

Actually, it’s all about a single choice: Will you choose to lead in a changing and complex world?

If the answer is “yes,” the rest will fall into place.

Watch Torres’s TED talk in its entirety:


Bill Sheridan