Odgers berndtson
Location and language United States | EN

Leadership Insights

Who has What it Takes to be a Future Fit Leader?

5 min read

Our leadership development and assessment experts explain the traits needed of future leaders.

Cultural and socio-economic forces are driving exceptional change and leaders must adapt to succeed. An increasingly atomized workforce is driving demand for connection and purpose, while novel business challenges shift priorities from bureaucracy and control to creativity and speed. Our research identifies five core traits ‘Future Fit’ leaders must possess to navigate an uncertain future. Underlying these traits, is human leadership – the ability to connect, unite and inspire through authenticity, vulnerability, and purpose.


Leaders should create a purpose beyond themselves and the organization that is ESG-focused. Every decision will then align with this purpose and inform everything from portfolio strategy, products, people and culture to processes, performance metrics and engagement.
These leaders ensure operational processes meet purpose-related targets and behaviors up and down the company’s value chain all align with the company’s purpose. 

Successful leaders will also help, guide and encourage their employees to find their purpose within the core values and goals of the business.

Purpose is not necessarily static and future fit leaders will reflect on the organisation’s purpose, connect the workforce with its underlying drivers and adapt if necessary. With 58% of purpose-driven companies reporting 10% more growth than those that are not, company purpose will become an inherent aspect of success.


The successful leaders of tomorrow will embody authenticity, empathy and adaptability. They will act purposefully and enable true self-expression for themselves and their teams. Showing genuine care, respect and concern for their employees’ well-being will come naturally, as will allowing flexibility and support that fits team members’ unique needs.

Part of this will be creating psychological safety to ensure everyone feels empowered to speak up without fear of scrutiny or recrimination. As a leader, this means learning when to hold back and make space for others to contribute. It also means developing the social sensitivity to draw out the introverts or those less inclined to speak up. At the same time, psychological safety is not about withholding (critical) feedback, but is about transparency and being forthcoming about issues to be improved. 

Leaders with human-centric traits will spend more time on coaching and recognition and importantly, finding and developing people for roles instead of roles for people.

Ed van der Sande Senior Partner Leadership Practice  

Human capital is scarce, and leaders should be more focused on retention than selection and leveraging the skills in-house most effectively, rather than trying to fit people into boxes. Tellingly, employees report a 37% increase in high engagement if they consider their leader to be a ‘human-centric leader’.


Today’s business challenges require leaders with creativity, speed and accountability. Traditional, hierarchal organizations are built to solve for uniformity, bureaucracy and control, whereas leaders of the future seek to create flat, non-hierarchical organizations.

These leaders take risks, are resilient and output-driven. The answer is not to modify the old models but to replace them with something radically better. They focus on thriving, not just surviving, and are comfortable with setbacks or mistakes and recover quickly by identifying learnings within these mistakes.

Typically, they are ‘digital-ready’ leaders, who we know are more likely to take on stretch assignments to build new skills and are more likely to grow the business.


Leaders who crosscut their networks and build more heterogeneous contacts have access to diverse knowledge and expertise. Future Fit leaders understand this gives them greater visibility of emerging and international opportunities. As a result, they enjoy benefits like higher quality outputs, more successful mergers and acquisitions and better stock evaluation. Moreover, they serve clients in a more flexible, client-focused way instead of focusing on outperforming the competition. Successful leaders are inherently authentic. 


They are capable of honest self-reflection and have a clear vision of who they are. This translates into being a role model for the changes or direction they aim for – they embody the ideal that a leader doesn’t get the message across; a leader is the message.

Authenticity means being humble enough to acknowledge strengths and weaknesses and vulnerable enough to know how these impact the business.

Sebijn Bunt Consultant Leadership Practice

Future Fit leaders know perform well and where they might need help to serve results and purpose; they are role models for those they lead.

We mapped these five P’s to our assessment tools to provide insights into a leader’s fit with the ideal Future Fit profile. In doing so, we provide insights into competencies, experiences, and motivational drivers. To discover more about your current leadership approach and development opportunities relative to the ‘Future Fit’ leader model, get in touch with us here.

Follow the links below to discover more about our expertise or to contact your local Odgers Berndtson office.

Follow us

Join us on our social media channels and see how we’re addressing today’s biggest issues.

Find a consultant [[ Scroll to top ]]