Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1 The impact of change

Change is all around us, from global and political transformation to changing attitudes and ways of living. Before you look at how change might impact on leadership in the future, take a moment to focus on how leaders are experiencing it now.

Activity 1 How has leadership changed?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the following video, ‘The future of leadership’, to find out how some current leaders are experiencing changes in their leadership:

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

In the space below, summarise the key themes discussed by the leaders in the video.

Have you observed similar changes in your workplace? Are you surprised by any of the comments?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


These leaders are discussing changes they have already seen taking place. Their reviews reflect many of the themes you’ve touched on already during this course, for example, the need to empower people, communicate a clear vision, be self-aware etc. Although they don’t mention followers by name, they clearly allude to a different relationship between leaders and their teams.

Generational impact

In his MG Thinkers 50 blog, leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith (2014) quotes some findings from multi-country research undertaken by Accenture Consulting and the Alliance for Strategic Leadership, outlining five ‘must haves’ for future leadership. Rather than interviewing today’s leaders, the research focused on the views of the leaders of tomorrow, and this is what they came up with:

  1. Thinking globally
  2. Appreciating cultural diversity
  3. Demonstrating technological savvy
  4. Building partnerships
  5. Sharing leadership

You’ll look at some of these points later this week, but first you’ll focus on the impact that the values and attitudes of future generations of workers might have on leadership.

In Week 2, you looked briefly at some key characteristics of different generations, from the so-called ‘Baby Boomers’ to ‘Generation Y’. There are already predictions being made about the next generation to reach the workplace, variously known as ‘Generation Z’, ‘The Post-Millennials’ or ‘The Smartphone Generation’.

The birth dates quoted for this group are still debated, but researchers often refer to those currently aged between 14–21. For them, technology is an essential part of life, and they are often quoted as expecting a tough future.

Economist Noreena Hertz gives this group the title ‘Generation K’, in reference to Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy The Hunger Games, also a series of hit films. She explains some of their key characteristics in this clip: The good news about ‘Generation K’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Some of the characteristics highlighted in Noreena’s interview will have a significant impact on how these individuals expect to lead or be led, either within the workforce or elsewhere. For example, their focus on climate change and inequality, and the desire to tackle issues and right wrongs, will inevitably impact on how they expect to be treated and how they will respond to different leadership styles and approaches.

Another key characteristic of this generation is a desire to be globally collaborative and share knowledge, which may again lead to a shift in leadership approach for some organisations. There may also be tension with members of older generations who may hold anti-globalisation views, as demonstrated by the UK’s decision to leave the EU, or the election of Donald Trump and his ‘America First’ agenda.

Rebecca Fielding shares her view on the types of leaders that organisations will be recruiting in the future.

Download this video clip.Video player: lf_1_video_week7_section1_fielding.mp4
Copy this transcript to the clipboard
Print this transcript
Show transcript|Hide transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Later this week, you’ll look at collaboration in more detail, and you'll consider leadership styles that are already emerging in response to a constantly changing environment.