The Future of Work Demands Conscious Leadership

Tom Eddington December 9, 2019

The workplace has changed dramatically over the past 40 years, and we are now in a new era of change driven by technology and the gig economy, and with multigenerational expectations about the nature of work.

In the old model, you were born, grew up, got an education, got hired, and worked until you retired. Employees often stayed at one company their entire professional lives, and work was a place of community in which employers took care of their workers.

Since the 1980s, technological advances, demographics, and economic conditions have altered the workplace landscape and replaced job security with a more transactional model of employment. Pressure has mounted on CEOs to please immediate Board and investor demands with little regard for the employees who are doing the heavy lifting. This leads to short-term thinking without considering long-term impacts on the organization. Employees, once the trunk of the corporate tree, are now like branches that are pruned off as economic conditions change. And the pace of change continues to accelerate:

  • Technology — not just robots but all forms — will eliminate millions of existing jobs and create millions of new ones.
  • The gig economy is growing three times faster than the overall U.S. workforce, with freelancers predicted to make up a majority of the workforce by 2027.
  • People’s expectations of work have evolved as we moved away from the cradle-to-grave model of employment. Absent the economic security of long-term employment, more workers seek fulfillment and a sense of purpose from their work.

What are the implications of these trends for leaders, organizations, and employees? How do we help people stay employed — and fulfilled — in a rapidly changing world?

The trends we see taking hold will put pressure on leaders to foster talent and create attractive work environments. This challenge calls for conscious leadership: bringing your whole self, with humility and humanity, to leadership. Conscious leaders:

  • Exhibit the kind of behaviors they expect and want in the people that work for them. They create a conscious culture where people know what’s expected — an environment where people can be effective and thrive.
  • Recognize our common humanity. Every employee in every company on this planet, regardless of position, is a human being. Being human means having stories we tell ourselves that inform how we feel and show up. These personal narratives impact our professional behavior more than we realize.

For employees, this paradigm means embracing the idea that each of us is responsible for having a fulfilling life. We are all being called to be leaders.

With these trends in mind, ask yourself: “How do I navigate my life, my career and my happiness? How can I be a conscious leader in my work environment?”

One of the ways I’ve seen this manifested over the past 20 years is in the growth of the pro bono movement. More organizations are creating opportunities for people to realize that work is so much more than what they get paid for financially. And more employees are volunteering, not because there is something in it for them, but because it feeds their souls. There is a spiritual element when you take your professional expertise and give it away to someone who needs it.

Conscious leadership gets to the root of our humanity, to make us better human beings who operate not just from our intellect, but from a broader spectrum that includes our instincts and heart-centeredness. When we lead from this space, we change everything. Ultimately, it is about how we show up every single day.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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