The Future of Work Calls for Human-Centric Leadership - Ideas for Leaders
Idea #734

The Future of Work Calls for Human-Centric Leadership

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A study on the future of work identifies the new human-centric leadership capabilities and priorities required for success in the 2028 workplace.


The workplace of tomorrow, according to a study of work in 2028, will be characterized by ubiquitous digitisation, disorientation in the face of constantly changing technology, and the continuous erosion of stability and familiarity: both life and work will be fluid and episodic with limited touchpoints between individuals and the organizations they work. Many people will feel a need for belonging, and a desire to make a difference. 

In addition, in the face of growing societal disparity and separation, organizations will need to take the paths toward sustainable models for business and the economy to remain viable in the long run.

The study was conducted by the Henley Centre for Leadership at the Henley Business School in collaboration with Deutsche Telekom and Detecon International. 

According to the study, leadership will need to be transformed as well. The following are some of the key elements of leadership in 2018.

Transparency and Immediacy. Leadership in 2028 will be characterized by unprecedented transparency – in a ubiquitous digital world in which information is immediately accessible to all through technology there is no place to hide for leaders. 

This transparency will shine the light on poor leadership but at the same time, positive contributions and hidden qualities will also be more visible.

Leadership in 2028 is also more inclusive. While leaders of the past psychologically and physically kept their distance from their subordinates, leaders of the future must manage the new immediacy of leadership — that is, the involvement of everyone in the leadership process. For example, how can leaders and companies ensure that the involvement of everyone in leadership is constructive rather than destructive or obstructionist? 

Gig Leadership. Gig leadership explodes the hierarchy and rigidity of the past: leadership is rotating and episodic, driven not by organizational structure but by complex organizational purposes and tasks. Co-leadership, people-tech ecosystem leadership and peer-to-peer leadership are a sample of the different configurations that come together as the need arises.

Leading Hybrid Work Forces. Leadership in 2028 is no longer just about leading people but also leading machines, since tasks will be divided among human beings and the many forms of artificial intelligence. (AI is not just robots, but also the sophisticated algorithms that enable computers to initiate tasks and make certain decisions). The challenge for future leaders is managing this people-tech ecosystem. Can technology be allowed to lead? How do we overcome the total lack of emotions, including empathy, in AI? Who will be accountable for data input decisions and consequences?

Top Management as Central Hub. In organizational terms, centralization was once synonymous with control — the hoarding of power. The central hub concept in 2028 disrupts and challenges the old structures, and is more about focus, coordination and nurturing. There are many ways for the hub to offer support, among them reminding people of the organization’s purpose; helping pull together disparate organizations; taking on the risks for long-term activities; and encouraging life-long learning.

Leading for Radical Human-Centricity. The demands of managing people-tech eco-systems and episodic, rotating leadership constellations require new leadership capabilities and new personal qualities. Leaders must enable and support complex networks of relationships and make quick judgments from limited information and vast amounts of raw data. And they need new deep personal qualities (e.g., vulnerability) and survival qualities (e.g., lifelong learning) not associated with leadership in the past.

Leadership Development Unlearned. If the rules and parameters of leadership in 2028 are dramatically different from traditional leadership, the development of leaders must be equally transformed. For example, the focus of leadership development must be on the ‘whole person,’ giving new leaders the capacity for human-centred leadership. New leaders must also be able to build their capacity and skills for episodic, non-linear, disruptive leadership, which will require unlearning principles and practices better suited for the stable leadership parameters of the past.


As leadership is transformed, companies and organizations must adapt. Here is a sample of first steps in which companies can already engage, for the future begins today:

  • Prepare people to succeed as accessible, inclusive leaders who welcome broad participation in the function of leadership and who are not afraid to operate in full view of the public.
  • Use rotating, episodic leadership to both identify and develop the best leaders and potential leaders in your organization who are not afraid to make and allow for suitable mistakes and experimentation and to operate in full view of the public.
  • As the capabilities of AI increase, carefully define the principles and parameters in your organization for managing the collaboration between people and technology. For example, how is accountability assigned?
  • Ensure that any centralized power is used not to command but to nurture, encourage and strengthen leadership throughout the organization.
  • The best leaders succeed because of who they are as a person. Choose leaders who have the deep personal qualities to ensure human-centric leadership — who can, for example, manage fluctuating networks of relationships, and recognize the individual person in the people they are leading.



  Bernd Vogel’s profile at Henley Business School
  Obiageli Heidelberger-Nkenke’s profile on LinkedIn
  Reza Moussavian’s profile on LinkedIn
  Martin Wilckens’ profile on LinkedIn
  Marc Wagner’s profile on LinkedIn
  Karla Blanke’s profile on LinkedIn
  Henley Centre for Leadership
  Henley Business School Executive Education profile at IEDP


Work 2028: Trends, Dilemmas & Choices. Bernd Vogel, Obiageli Heidelberger-Nkenke, Reza Moussavian, Peter Kalkanis, Martin Wilckens, Marc Wagner & Karla Blanke. A Study by Deutsche Telekom, Detecon International, and Henley Centre for Leadership/Henley Business School (August 2018).

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Idea conceived

August 29, 2018

Idea posted

Mar 2019
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