Attributes of Tomorrow’s Leaders: Findings from Project 2025
This week, I am enjoying snowy Boston and the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual conference. On Friday, I will have a chance to present on the great work our faculty has engaged in this year as part of Project 2025.
In January, as the faculty synthesized over 200 “take-aways” from 34 different leaders in a diversity of professional fields, clear patterns emerged that helped us articulate the types of skills, experiences, and habits our students will need in order flourish in the year 2025.
This process took a few hours, but the conversation was invigorating. This wasn’t a discussion of someone else’s list of 21st-Century skills — we were examining our own research. I wanted to share our findings with you: five essential “Attributes of Tomorrow’s Leaders.”
Attributes of Tomorrow’s Leaders
- Effective communicators and collaborators
- Lifelong learners that are adept in a diversity of fields and skill-sets, including technology
- Flexible and adaptable problem solvers
- Risk takers and self-starters that grow from failure
- Innovators that possess interpersonal awareness, perseverance and passion
Let’s look at each of these in more detail
1. Effective communicators and collaborators
Nearly every interviewee emphasized the primacy of strong communication skills — including the ability to write clearly, speak effectively in public and private, and listen carefully to colleagues and clients. These three dimensions of communication support successful collaboration with individuals both inside and outside of one’s profession. Many interviewees spoke about the importance of building a diverse network and collaborating with individuals from a variety of cultural and professional backgrounds.
2. Lifelong learners that are adept in a diversity of fields and skill-sets, including technology
In this information age, knowing how to access and utilize the right information is a vital skill. While interviewees talked about the importance of subject-specific expertise, they also emphasized the advantage of cultivating an ever-expanding, diverse knowledge base — driven by curiosity and hands-on, “real world” experiences. Facility with technology is vital to each of these efforts.
3. Flexible and adaptable problem solvers
As our interviewees reflected on how their professions are changing, they made it clear that the ability to pivot in response to new information or technology is not just a nicety – it’s a necessity. Successful leaders adapt to changing conditions, explore problems from a variety of perspectives, manage “the unexpected” with grace, and integrate new understandings into existing systems.
4. Risk takers and self-starters that grow from failure
One idea that rose to the surface was failure’s relationship to success. Interviewees talked about success as a process – one that requires grit, internal motivation, a willingness to take risks, and the ability to self-assess and learn from setbacks and mistakes. Tomorrow’s leaders will be skilled at recognizing and seizing opportunities – including less-than-glamorous challenges that others pass up.
5. Innovators that possess interpersonal awareness, perseverance and passion
Finally, our research pointed to quiet traits of successful innovators: empathy for others, persistence to see a project through to fruition, and enthusiasm for the work. These attributes elevate the quality of our work or product because they lead us to pay attention to the little details that will affect the lives of our co-workers, clients, and end-users.