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How to be a great leader in the reskilling era

The reskilling era demands leaders who learn fast and know how to help others do the same.

Continuous disruptive change is the new norm for business, calling for managers who know how to create a culture of continual learning and reskilling.

In an article for McKinsey&Company, Lynda Gratton, David Rock, Joe Voelker, and Tim Welsh discuss how managers can help their organisations thrive in the “reskilling era”.


Think: “If we don’t disrupt our business, somebody else is going to do it for us.” Instigate rapid innovation that shortcuts your firm’s core business processes and supply chains.

Because today’s job roles will change or disappear tomorrow, design job specs around the need to re-skill.

Give people the chance to move easily within your organisation.“Provide ongoing momentum for people to use their agency to decide for themselves, “What am I going to do next?”

Help staff understand the changes that are coming. Having conversations about “what might realistically happen in the future and how it could affect employees”, means staff can anticipate where they might (or might not) go next within the organisation, and to be able to begin to prepare for that.


Do away with cubicles, conference calls and PowerPoints, creating instead a workspace in which people are free to move about and interact with each other more freely.

Redesign work around empowerment – allow people to set their own goals.

Create an atmosphere of psychological safety: “How leaders demonstrate the ways they think about failure is really important.” To do this:

  • Lead by example: “One leader sends a note to his managers saying, “These are the things that I’ve learned and thought about, and these are some of the things that didn’t work so well”.
  • Teach staff to challenge each other without being overly aggressive or personal.
  • Turn down your scowl – when people are less in awe of their bosses they perform better.


Mid-level managers like being in charge and telling others what to do but can lack empathy: “In an era where it’s all too common to treat people as numbers – literally dehumanising them – the leaders and organisations that will succeed are those that put human values at their core.”

Give middle managers a new role in which their success is judged by the extent to which they enable their staff to succeed.

Encourage managers to nurture their sense of empathy by encouraging them to mix outside their normal social circle.

Building a culture of continuous learning needs leaders with insight and empathy who are capable of building a workforce that’s agile, empowered, proactive and ready to learn.

Source Article: Redefining The Role Of Leader In The Reskilling Era
Author(s): Lynda Gratton, David Rock, Joe Voelker, and Tim Welsh
Publisher: McKinsey&Company