By Jacob Morgan
Leaders of the future need to be comfortable charting their own paths and venturing into the unknown. In past decades, leaders had a fairly well laid out path: business often didn’t change very much, which meant they could simply follow what the people before them had done to keep things moving and find success. However, that’s no longer the case.
In order to succeed in the future, leaders will need to become explorers. Constant innovation and an ever-increasing pace of change have turned those old leadership paths into obsolete trails that won’t move a company forward. The path to success in the future is yet to be seen and differs for each leader and organization. To move forward, leaders have to step into the unknown. Think of the famous explorers of past centuries. These people only made great discoveries and found success because they were willing to do what had never been done before and venture into uncharted waters.
As part of the research for my new book, The Future Leader1, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world. One of the questions I asked was about the mindsets leaders will need to have over the next decade and beyond. I received a wide variety of answers, but a large portion of the responses fit into the need to become an explorer and be comfortable with the unknown and the uncomfortable. Explorers can teach future leaders many mindsets they should adopt.
From all the CEOs I spoke with, one of the most common mindsets for future leaders is the need to be curious. Curiosity is the foundation of a strong explorer. They have to wonder what is out beyond what they can see. They question how things are and wonder how things can be improved, both for themselves and the people around them. Curiosity is often the first stepping stone that sets people down a journey of exploration and discovery. It’s asking that question that propels them towards research and action. Curiosity involves asking yourself “Why?” and “What if?”.
However, too many leaders and workers get stuck in the same old routine and don’t give themselves time to be curious. Little kids are full of wonder and ask questions about everything to better understand it. But as we get older, that natural curiosity tends to fade away. Especially in the business world, there’s often pressure to come across like you know everything without allowing yourself to ask questions and think about what could be.
Curiosity takes on many forms. The mindset of curiosity looks different in everyone. It starts by asking questions and wanting to find answers. Curiosity can look like research as people hunt for answers to their questions, which can then fuel new ideas. Curiosity can also be openness to other people’s ideas. Instead of instantly shutting down anything new or different, it takes curiosity to hear a person out and give new ideas validation and consideration. Curiosity can be open-ended thought and brainstorming without the constraints of the status quo or other limitations.
Super Perpetual Learning
Related to curiosity is the idea of super perpetual learning. Most people can agree that in order to move forward, we must always be learning something new. However, successful leaders take it to the next level by becoming super perpetual learners. These people consume knowledge like no one else and are always looking for new skills to add, new books to read, and new things to learn about. Explorers of old had to always be learning to stay up to date on changing weather patterns, transportation, and climate. Similarly, future leaders need to always be learning to stay up to date on advances in technology, what their competition is doing, and what’s happening in the world. Aside from that, super perpetual learners absorb all kinds of knowledge and want to learn about a variety of things simply because they find them interesting.
Everyone learns simply by experiencing things. As we move through life and our careers, we come across new situations and people that force us to learn new things. The difference between normal learning and super perpetual learning is the intention. The best learners don’t just sit idly by waiting for some kind of experience to teach them something. They seek out new information that can benefit them and their company. That learning doesn’t have to happen just from books. It takes a variety of forms like listening to new podcasts, attending conferences, reading articles, talking to new people, traveling the world, and so much more.
Super perpetual learners also must apply what they learn. It’s one thing for future leaders to meet with new people or start a new project so they can learn, but it doesn’t do them much good if they don’t apply what they learn. Being a super perpetual learner should change you. The information should soak in so much that you simply can’t avoid making changes in your own life and in your organization. The world is changing at a frantic pace, and it’s the super perpetual learners and leaders who will change along with it and be able to keep up.
Like the name implies, a growth mindset moves people forward and encourages them to constantly improve. People with a growth mindset know that the skills and circumstances you’re born with aren’t the limits of what you can become and believe that people can make progress and develop new skills and mindsets. Explorers must possess the growth mindset in order to be successful. If they want to make the most of their teams, they have to believe they can work together to grow and achieve something better.
Kathy Mazzarelli, CEO of Graybar, told me this: “Leaders must possess a growth mindset in which they are constantly learning, innovating and exploring new ideas. They must learn to ask different questions and analyze issues critically, rather than relying on past experience and long-held assumptions to make decisions.”
The growth mindset turns challenges into opportunities for further growth. When explorers hit a roadblock, they don’t instantly give up, thinking they simply weren’t made to be an explorer. Instead, they use that challenge or failure as an opportunity to learn, revamp their idea, and try again. In order to be successful, future leaders must be able to bounce back from challenges and believe that no matter where they are now, each person and the organization as a whole can grow to become something better.
Adaptability and Agility
Just like explorers need to make regular course corrections as they come across a new route or an unexpected challenge, leaders also need to be adaptable and agile. Course corrections within an organization can come from new technology, disruption in the industry, geo-political changes, new personnel, and a number of other sources. The important thing for future leaders is that those inevitable changes don’t slow down the company or throw it off track. This can go against a lot of what business professionals learn in school – to simply repeat what works every time – but the truth is that in the future of work, there will be too much change to just apply the same actions and way of thinking every time.
Explorers, like future leaders, need to be able to think on their feet and adapt quickly. When last-minute changes come, they need to quickly make a calculated decision. That doesn’t mean that they’ll be right all of the time, but they will continue to move forward and keep the company on track.
Future leaders must be explorers to be successful. These mindsets show the necessity of embracing change and preparing for it instead of running away. The path forward may be uncharted, but following in the mindset of great explorers can prepare future leaders for whatever comes next.
About the Author
Jacob Morgan is one of the world’s leading authorities on leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. He is a 4x best-selling author, speaker, and professionally trained futurist. He is also the founder of The Future of Work University, an online education and training platform that helps future proof individuals and organizations by teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. His new book, The Future Leader, which is based on interviews with over 140 CEOs around the world is coming out Jan 2020, you can learn more or order it at getfutureleaderbook.com
1. https://www.amazon.com/2025-Leader-Jacob-Morgan/dp/ 1119518377/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=the+future+leader & qid = 1576555327&sr =8-2