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Build Boundaryless Leaders or Become Obsolete

Due to the ever-increasing complexity and interconnectedness of the world we live and operate in, the effectiveness of your organization’s leaders (at all levels) in the following three attributes will either propel your organization forward or help render it obsolete: 

  • Ensuring engagement and alignment from divergent talent and teams irrespective of worker classification (employee/freelancer/contractor) or physical proximity (face-to-face/virtual/remote).
  • Possessing a holistic understanding of and an ability to establish and strengthen personal connections across all key stakeholder groups; internally across functions and units, as well as externally across customers, suppliers, etc. 
  • Demonstrating an authentic appreciation for and understanding of the value of diversity; both among protected classes and more broadly by seeking out diversity in perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.    

These boundaryless leaders can break through and navigate barriers of four primary types in order to effectively and consistently assert influence, drive collaboration, foster creativity and innovation, and facilitate productive relationships across the entire ecosystem of their organization’s value chain:  

Personal boundaries

Overcoming one’s fears (e.g., fear of failure, fear of differences) and demonstrating the desire and willingness to challenge and advance one’s own thinking (i.e., a learn-it-all, not a know-it-all) are essential to leadership agility and organizational innovation, and are foundational elements of 14 Future Leader Capabilities.  

Consider this:

  • Innovation is one of five shared values of highly-agile organizations.
  • Comfort with taking risks and tolerance for ambiguity are two of the foremost leadership traits that promote agility.
  • Creating a continuous learning culture is paramount to becoming an agile organization, and involving leaders in teaching others and reinforcing learning’s importance is a primary trait of a learning culture. 

Cultural boundaries

Identifying bias in one’s self and others is important, but only one in five organizations (19%) indicate their leaders are effective at either. Demonstrating a global mindset – openness to and awareness of cross-cultural diversity with a propensity and ability to see common patterns across countries and markets – is an essential element of leadership effectiveness and enabling a safe and inclusive work environment.  

Consider this:  High-performance organizations are …

  • 2x more likely to have leaders that are highly effective at establishing productive relationships with people from other cultures, countries, races, and backgrounds.
  • 2x more likely to have leaders who are role models and advocates for inclusivity within their teams or spheres of control.
  • Nearly 2x more likely to have leaders who are effective at increasing the variety of ideas and perspectives in the workplace by proactively seeking, recruiting, and developing others from varied backgrounds. 

Geographical boundaries

Overcoming barriers of physical proximity to engage, connect, communicate, and collaborate with others is vital for effective leadership. i4cp research has long established that – while business and technical acumen are essential elements of one’s ability to lead – social skills have the greatest impact on leadership effectiveness. In the current digitized and globalized environment, proficient use of virtual and social technologies will be a key leadership differentiator. 

Consider this:

  • Virtual leadership skills represent one of the 10 most-needed skills not included in most leadership development programs.
  • Utilization of synchronous virtual technologies (e.g., web conferencing, instant message) to communicate/collaborate has a strong positive correlation to market performance.
  • Utilization of social technologies (e.g., Yammer, Jam) to connect with other employees has a strong positive correlation to collaboration effectiveness. 

Organizational boundaries

Breaking down knowledge silos and establishing/strengthening interdependencies across key stakeholder groups helps maximize enterprise value. Essential to this is equipping leaders with an understanding of the interconnecting components that comprise a defined system and enabling employees to navigate the organization to seek out solutions.    

Consider this: High-performance organizations are …

  • Up to 2.5x more likely to help others establish productive connections across the internal enterprise (e.g., with employees from other functions, departments, or business units).
  • 4.5x more likely to have leaders who purposefully extend their influence across internal boundaries, and 4.8x more likely to do so beyond the enterprise to include suppliers, customers, and other key external stakeholders.
  • 2.5x more likely to plan movement of talent across key external stakeholders. This has a strong positive correlation to market performance and is a next practice in talent mobility. 

Boundaryless leaders hold the key to operating successfully in increasingly complex, digitized, globalized, and interdependent systems. These leaders successfully break through and navigate four primary barriers (personal, cultural, geographical, and organizational) to maximize the value of the whole by connecting and unleashing the power of its critical components. Boundaryless leaders are those who lead and sustain your organization through the turbulent and unpredictable times ahead.

Read more 2018 talent predictions.

Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin is the chief research officer at i4cp. A highly sought-after international keynote speaker on all aspects of human resources and talent management, Kevin has been recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner, is a renowned keynote speaker, and has been published in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and HBR.