Management styles

What kind of leaders and employees do you need the next 5-10 years?

What kind of leaders and employees do you need the next 5-10 years?

…and how to develop and retain them?

By Kirsten M. Poulsen
Director and Mangement Consultant, KMP+ House of Mentoring



What kind of leaders and employees do you need to develop and retain in your organisation to meet the challenges of the next 5-10 years? Will it be people who follow the rules, know the facts and copy their superiors, or will it be people who are constantly learning, building diverse networks, navigating change productively, handling challenges creatively and make wise judgements?

Maybe in some professions and in some organisations the world is still reasonably stable and success depends on employees following directions, conforming to existing values and norms, and knowledge being transferred from the experienced employees to new employees. However, many more organisations today need knowledge workers who

  • are able to handle high turbulence without losing their sense of direction
  • are able to make decisions even when there is no time to think – and no time to ask superiors
  • accept that there are no right answers but only an imperative to fail fast, to keep moving and to find the best possible answer in each new situation.

These skills are not obtained through traditional classroom training and curriculum-based courses. These skills cannot be taught, but must be learned through experience and reflection, and by sharing and learning from others in a connected learning environment. Class room training is still needed for some skills training and knowledge building, but it is simply not enough in today’s world. We are living in a VUCA1 world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – where new skills are needed to cope with constant change, unclear hierarchies, rapidly changing political arenas, social media’s influence, unexpected competition from disruptive business models etc.
This means that we need to shift to a new approach to learning that will help organisations develop a learning culture where learning happens all the time, assumptions are challenged and knowledge is not only shared but continuously created and applied in new ways to meet new challenges.

Modern mentoring is one such tool that can provide the framework for

  • relational and mutual learning
  • building new networks across organisational boundaries
  • developing individual’s learning skills
  • developing a learning culture in the organisation

and ultimately increase the organisation’s capacity to perform and achieve their strategic goals.

What is modern mentoring?

The focus of modern mentoring is mutual, relational learning in a connected learning environment where learning is based on experimentation, experience, reflection and sharing. Where mentoring at one time was focused on the master teaching the apprentice – or the sponsorship mentor protecting, advising and supporting the inexperienced employee – modern mentoring recognises that mentors do not have all the answers and should not have all the answers.

Modern mentoring is less about building expertise in a specific profession and more about

  • developing your mental capacity to handle change and unexpected situations
  • developing self insight and the ability to look at yourself from the outside
  • developing your ability to understand other people and people different from yourself
  • developing learning agility and constantly developing yourself.

In our work with organisations around the world we have seen many different approaches to the understanding of mentoring on a continuum from one-way sharing of knowledge, giving advice and providing protection to the mutual learning process of modern mentoring – also defined as a learning alliance.

Mentoring as a Learning Alliance is a partnership of mutual learning and development that potentially can transform the organisation.



  • How do you define mentoring in your organisation?
  • How well are your leadership and talent development initiatives aligned with the kind of leaders and employees you will need in 5-10 years?


1The notion of VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College to describe the more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous multilateral world which resulted from the end of the Cold War. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the 1990s.


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