Leading the Future of Work: Jacob Morgan on Top Leadership Trends for 2024

Jacob Morgan is a five-time bestselling author, keynote speaker and futurist focused on leadership, employee experience and the future of work. With extensive experience working with and interviewing top business leaders around the globe, Morgan has unique insights into the most critical leadership trends shaping the modern workplace. In a discussion with The Financial Brand's Jim Marous, Morgan offers practical strategies for banking executives to future-proof their organizations in an era of rapid change.

The banking industry faces unique challenges and opportunities in a rapidly evolving business landscape. To shed light on the critical leadership trends shaping the future of work, The Financial Brand’s Jim Marous, host of the Banking Transformed podcast, sits down with renowned leadership futurist and bestselling author Jacob Morgan.

With his extensive research and experience working with top business leaders around the globe, Morgan offers invaluable insights into the skills and strategies banking executives must embrace to navigate the complexities of modern leadership.

From leading with vulnerability to embracing a transformation mindset, Morgan shares practical advice for banking leaders looking to future-proof their organizations. He emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, leveraging generative AI and bridging the gap between competence and connection in leadership roles.

As the banking industry grapples with the impact of hybrid work, the escalating demand for talent and the fear of AI, Morgan’s insights provide a roadmap for executives seeking to lead their organizations into the future.

Q: What has been the greatest change in the skills needed and the challenges presented to be an effective leader since the COVID-19 pandemic?

Jacob Morgan: I don’t think there’s been too much change as far as mindsets and skills. Some of the mindsets these 140 CEOs I spoke to while researching my book “The Future Leader” identified were things like having the chef’s mindset — which is about balancing technology and humanity. Having a servant or a global citizen mindset is about seeing the big picture and surrounding yourself with people unlike you.

There was also the explorer’s mindset, which was this idea about having a growth mindset. Then, there was also the servant’s mindset, which is not quite the same thing as servant leadership, but there were some similar attributes there.

Leading with Vulnerability and Competence

Q: How can banking leaders strike a balance between leading with vulnerability while also showing competence?

Morgan: Leading with vulnerability is about exposing a gap and demonstrating your efforts to close it. Inside the workspace, you have a different dynamic. You have a boss, employees, projects, deadlines and hierarchy.

If you keep showing up to work each day just talking about the gaps you have, eventually, someone will look at you and say: “Why are you working here?”

Leading with vulnerability means discussing your gaps and demonstrating what you’re trying to do to close them. It concerns the two most important roles of any leader: competence and connection. Competence means being good at your job and being able to connect with your people.

Q: What strategies have you seen leaders excel at building the next wave of banking in a hybrid work environment?

Morgan: I’m a big believer in in-person work. There is substantial value for in-person work. It’s like for my industry: I give a lot of speeches to companies and there’s a difference between productivity versus impact. Can I deliver more speeches sitting and staring at a camera in a day than I can deliver in-person speeches? Yeah. But is the impact going to be the same? No, the impact is going to be far greater in person.

If you want to break through beyond mediocrity and get into a leadership role, leading a team, a function, a business, or maybe one day a company, you need to be in person. There’s just no way around that.

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Upskilling and Reskilling in the Age of Digitalization

Q: How should leaders approach upskilling and reskilling initiatives while ensuring existing employees don’t feel threatened by digitalizing their jobs?

Morgan: You should feel threatened by your job and be fearful of it. Fear keeps you working hard, motivated, doing high-quality work and doing what you need.

You should be showing up to work thinking: “Wow, my company’s really making some investments here. I should probably figure out what’s going on, learn about things like ChatGPT, connect with some peers, talk to my leader and identify potential opportunities for career pivots if I need to in the future.”

Leaders should be very honest and upfront with their people. If you do see that there is some potential threat to somebody’s role, you should tell them and say: “Hey, look over the next year or so; we’re considering implementing something like a ChatGPT in this role. So, why don’t we sit down together and figure out if you no longer had to do this aspect of your job, what else would you be able to do instead?”

“You should feel threatened by your job and be fearful of it. Fear keeps you working hard, motivated, doing high-quality work and doing what you need.”

Thinking Like a Futurist

Q: How can executives apply scenario planning or embrace an innovation mindset to stay ahead of change?

Morgan: Thinking like a futurist is about asking yourself four questions. First, write down a scenario that you think might happen. Then, ask yourself, “well, why would that happen? What would cause that to happen?” The third question is, what are some of the factors that would influence why something will or will not happen? Then, the fourth question you ask yourself is, “what do you want to happen?”

One thing we often forget is that the future of work isn’t something that happens to us. It is something that we can shape, design, create and build. Many leaders struggle with this, asking: “Well, what is the future going to look like? What is our business going to look like?”

But the reality is they should be saying: “What is the future that we want to happen? How are we going to make that future happen? What do we want our business to look like in this technology-driven world? And what steps are we going to take to make that future a reality?”

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Q: What opportunities and challenges do you see from the executive perspective regarding the deployment of generative AI and ChatGPT?

Morgan: I see tons of opportunities for leaders across any industry, even if you’re in banking. For example, you can go into ChatGPT and say, “I have this employee who works for me. He is in customer service and good at people skills, marketing and emotional intelligence-related things. But he’s looking to transition into a role that’s a little bit more focused on analytics.

Can you create a six-month training program for this employee with recommended topics and courses and an outline of how he should spend his time each day, a maximum of two hours a day, learning how to upskill and retrain himself to make this transition?”

“Leading with vulnerability means discussing your gaps and demonstrating what you’re trying to do to close them.”

ChatGPT will provide you with a personalized training solution that you can use to help this employee transition from customer service to analytics. This kind of assistance and resource is enormously valuable.

Q: What do you see as the biggest gap in leadership today based on where you think it should be?

Morgan: The biggest gap is this idea we discussed at the beginning of combining leadership with vulnerability, competence with connection. I think we’re forgetting about performance and leadership. And I hope that in 2024, that will be the big trend we bring back.

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Update Often

Q: How important is it for leaders to continuously learn and update themselves?

Morgan: It’s crucial. The best analogy I can think of is how often you update the software on

your iPhone or computer. Even my TV has updates every week. It’s constantly fixing bugs and improving features. Leaders need to ask themselves, “How often am I updating myself?” Why should the TV or your phone be updated more often than you are?

So, what are you doing to update yourself? You should be the killer app. As far as what separates those who get it from those who don’t, I think it’s like exercise. Those who stay healthy view it as an ongoing journey.

They know that there’s never an endpoint. It’s a lifestyle, not a destination. Versus those who view it as short-term, they always fail because there is no endpoint. The world keeps moving.

Q: How can leaders avoid complacency and stay motivated to continuously improve?

Morgan: A lot of people are exhausted with the idea of transformation. Instead of focusing on transformation, having a transformation mindset is far more valuable. That means making gradual improvements over time instead of doing these big projects.

For example, if you see outdated procedures in your organization, don’t wait to a point where you say, “we got to transform everything.” The idea is as these things come up, point them out and adapt. Encourage your employees to speak up and say, “hey, I realized this is an outdated way to do this. Is it okay if I just change it and do it like this instead?” That’s a transformation mindset. Being able to make those improvements.

There’s a quote, I think it was Ben Franklin: “Small strokes fell great oaks.” Meaning small improvements over a long period of time can yield great impact. If you improve by 1% a day, by the end of the year, you’ll be 37 times better.

“Instead of focusing on transformation, having a transformation mindset is far more valuable. That means making gradual improvements over time instead of doing these big projects.”

Bridging the Leadership Gap and Developing Future Leaders

Q: If someone wants to become a leader but isn’t one right now, where should they focus their energy?

Morgan: First, you don’t need anybody’s permission. You don’t need to ask anybody for anything. You can decide to become a better leader and learn the things that you need. There are a lot of great resources out there. But probably the best thing that you can do is surround yourself with other leaders at your company. Find the leader inside of your organization who you would like to emulate.

Try to spend some time with them, watch them, or observe them. Pay attention to how they lead meetings, talk to people, make decisions and just observe. You have a lot of leaders in your company — and you’re surrounded by a lot of leaders every single day. Pay attention to both the good ones and the bad ones, as well as what’s working and what’s not.

Justin Estes is an award-winning writer, strategist, and financial marketing expert with expertise in banking, investments, and fintech. His clients include the NYSE, Franklin Templeton, Credit Karma, Citi and, UBS, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Barrons and ThinkAdvisor as well as The Financial Brand.

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