Leadership traits and the new talent ecosystem: What does it take to triumph?

Leadership traits and the new talent ecosystem: What does it take to triumph?

Leadership traits and the new talent ecosystem[1]: What are we speaking about? What do we mean by new talent ecosystem?

by Jean Luc Seguin CRHA – CHRP

First things first: an ecosystem is a community made up of living organisms and nonliving components such as air, water, and mineral soil. Ecosystems can be studied as structured systems and communities governed by general rules (Wikipedia).

The notion of a talent ecosystem is one in which everything on the people side of the business is connected – attracting and acquiring talent, managing, connecting and developing talent, understanding and planning talent. It is about the way an organization is and will manage critical capabilities to gain a competitive edge. In the new context of complex changes, executives and organizational leaders are facing unknown situations that may generate enormous puzzlement.

The complexity increases with the new way of sourcing and onboarding talent and building organizations. If, within this context, we react using established, obsolete strategies, skills and methods, seeking to obtain quick fixes in the short term, we may be putting the survival of our organization at risk. 

According to most of the major consulting firms, automation, cognitive computing, and crowdsourcing are paradigm-shifting forces that reshape the workforce and the way people are managed and interact. This is a great opportunity to rethink the way the C-suite leads and engages people to achieve results and create values. We will explore what type of leadership characteristics will be most beneficial in this new social and corporate environment.

According to Deloitte the top companies in those new paradigm-shifting forces are built around structures that encourage teams and individuals to meet, share information transparently and move from team to team, depending on the issue to be tackled. Organizations that empower their teams to make decisions and create this ability to move between teams without risk are critical characteristics of today’s high-performing and agile companies.

The successful organization would be the one empowering their people to make decisions and make them accountable for results. If people need freedom to act, think, perform, then organizations need their people to be accountable for results. In our world, one comes with the other. Before proposing what we think could be the right leadership traits in this new ecosystem, let us pause for a moment on those two critical characteristics in the workplace.

Empowerment and Accountability

According to the Cambridge dictionary, empowerment “is the process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you”.

Empower comes from the Latin noun “posse” meaning power, force, “to be able”, “have power”. It is someone armed with legal authority. Empowerment in the workplace is a philosophy and strategy that businesses use to entrust their employees with the power they need to make decisions and behave according to their understanding of business goals (Wiktionary).Empowering people to make decisions and relying on networks of interactions does not mean that people are no longer accountable for results.

‘Accountable’ comes from Medieval Latin imputabilisand from Modern Latin imputare “to charge, ascribe” (etymonline.com). Accountability (charging someone to deliver result) becomes more transparent as organizations use goal-setting to support success. It is then easier to measure and track. The sense of accountability this can create is critical to team and corporate effectiveness, and is among the top drivers of outstanding financial outcomes.If empowerment and accountability are two critical organizational traits, what type of leadership characteristics do we need for a dynamic new ecosystem?

Key leadership traits to triumph in the new environment

Facilitating the transition to the new paradigm requires executives and leaders to develop a set of attributes critical to engage and mobilize the new talent ecosystem.

There is no magic stick to engage people, especially when speaking about crowdsourcing. Nevertheless, if not all-embracing, there are key characteristics: authenticity, enthusiasms and resilience, creativity, and empathy and compassion.


“If you are your authentic self, you have no competition”Anonymous

Authenticity comes directly from Medieval Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos “original, genuine, principal,” from authentes “one acting on one’s own authority” (online ethymology dictionary). In the modern world, authenticity means “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” (Merriam-Webster).

Janet Louise Stephenson, an American writer, teacher and social activist who wrote in the areas of civil rights, the women’s movement, the peace movement, the environment and the arts, said: “Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity.” Authenticity, with integrity, and a certain measure of vulnerability, would go a long way in engaging and mobilizing people around business vision and its execution. Humans can relate to one another more easily if the relationship is ingrained in honesty. Authenticity enhances credibility and reputation, as a positive differentiation to achieve effective leadership.

Enthusiasm and Resilience

“The happiest, most interesting people are those who have found the secret of maintaining their enthusiasm, that God within.”Earl Nightingale.

“The word ‘enthusiasm’ comes from the Greek word ‘entheos’ which means the God within. It is a great adjective for describing anything you do cheerfully.” Because it is vital to engaging the hearts and minds of all talent in the new ecosystem, enthusiastic leaders have the spark that can foster commitment and determination in people. They are the strong believers that inspire passion and the belief that we have the ability to achieve the unimaginable and create enchantment.As explained in a previous post by Jean-Luc’s, resilience is coming from the Latin verb “resilio”, literally “jump back,” “rebound, resist”. In physics, resilience is a term that characterizes the energy absorbed by a body during deformation (Test of Charpy). According to the French neuropsychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, “Resilience is the ability of an individual to generate biological, psychological and social factors to resist, adapt and fortify himself in the face of a risk situation”. As a result, resilience generates individual, social and moral success. In a time of rapid and complex changes, a leader without resilience will drown in the midst of complexity and chaos.


“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, creativity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit”. E. E. Cummings

We often think about creativity as making something, but in fact the root meaning of the word means ‘to grow’. Though we’re tempted to think of creativity as having ties to the aesthetic world, creativity is a business tool as well – as leaders learn to look at challenges from different perspectives and find new opportunities emerge as a result.

According to the World Economic Forum, creativity is one of the fundamental skills toward 2020. It moved from the #10 skill set in 2015 to # 3 in 2020. It contributes, among other things, to the construction of an organizational culture to generate ideas and initiatives that will enrich the organization’s value, produce magic and rally people. 

Empathy and Compassion

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive”. Dalai Lama

Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within. The English word empathy is derived from the Ancient Greek word empatheia, meaning “physical affection or compassion”.

According to Paul Ekman, an American psychologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco who is a pioneer in the study of emotions, the term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. It is generally defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.The importance of empathy in business is rooted in data. 92% of HR professionals note that an empathetic workplace is a major factor for people retention.

Being empathetic in the workplace provides meaningful, concrete returns, it pushes people to listen to each other and care for one another. Coupled with compassion, it motivates people to go out of their way to help other people in the workplace which in return has a positive impact on business performance. Leading people to connect to one another helps sustain blooming companies built for the long term.

Into a New Adventure

As we move towards new organizational models with new types of interaction and networks, leaders need to embed in their fabrics simple human characteristics that shape the future, foster genuine engagement of people and in return, impact positively the bottom line.

Those key characteristics: authenticity, enthusiasm and resilience, creativity, and empathy and compassion are the lifeblood of brilliant possible outlooks. The more we tend to dehumanize our world, the more we need the cleanliness of the real self and the vibrant intensity of genuine encounters and relationships. The workplace isn’t different!

[1]Talent ecosystem is the new paradigm of people bringing and creating value for the organization from the most traditional form of being an employee to the most agile practice of crowdsourcing.


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