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Responding to the data revolution with resilient leadership

By Dr Selvi Kannan, educator, mentor and Academic Specialist Advisor – Management & Innovation, Victoria University; and Dr Bill Petreski, Principal, Strategy61

Major shifts in the world are placing new demands on businesses, workforces and ultimately education and training. New Resilient Leadership skills are required for the paradigm shift that is upending organisational structures and human capital.


The data revolution

Sometimes called the data revolution, the fourth industrial revolution emerged since the global financial crisis of 2008 as a proliferation of our ability to capture, store and manage data that has ultimately led to widespread accessibility and its commoditisation.

By contrast, the first industrial revolution (1760 to 1840) was a defining point in history as we transitioned from hand production methods to new manufacturing processes that were underpinned by steam power, machines, tools and factories.

Inevitably our world did reckon the data revolution. The following industrial revolutions (the technological revolution between 1870 and 1914, and the information revolution between 1980 to 2005) created industries that have been defined by increasingly rapid convergence of computing, telecommunications and networking infrastructure.

Today’s new paradigm is shaping technology-driven futures underpinned by emerging automation technologies, including data analytics, deep learning, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. Automation technologies are already becoming essential parts of everyday life and will increasingly transform our workplace.

On one hand, the profound technological changes of the fourth industrial revolution intensified competition in an increasingly borderless commercial environment. While such globalisation has led to unprecedented gains for many from the movement of goods, services, people and ideas, there are those who have lost out – economically, politically or culturally.

While there have been profound socio-economic impacts in all past industrial revolutions, each change has also required dissimilar organisational structures, human capital and therefore leadership capabilities.

Now is the time for all organisations to hone their management and leadership competencies to adapt to current accelerating business model innovations. Greater resilience will be the key to meet the demands that are upending human capital management and legacy hierarchical organisational structures.

Resilient leadership is the key

Resilience originates from the Latin word resiliens, which refers to the pliant or elastic quality of a substance. Broadly it often refers to positive self-esteem, hardiness, strong coping skills, a sense of coherence, self-efficacy, optimism, strong social resources, adaptability, risk-taking, low fear of failure, determination, perseverance, and a high tolerance of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, leadership is often described as taking active approaches to making decisions. It involves gaining and keeping engagement of others’ positive attention, showing empathy, insight, intellectual competence, self-direction, self-esteem, setting direction, and demonstrating strength and flexibility during a change process.

In the new paradigm of the data revolution and its emerging organisational structures and new models of human capital, resilience and leadership require additional capabilities that include technical competencies, entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity that will sustainably equip individuals for current and future challenges.

We posit resilient leadership will enable individuals to rapidly fine-tune their professional capabilities to the business model innovations stemming from the current wave of automation technologies. Similarly, businesses will be increasingly required to support their executives, who are otherwise bound by legacy organisational structures, business processes and cultural values.

Our proposed archetype, resilient leadership, will require life-long skill and knowledge development of the attributes to operate in the new agile management environment.  Resilient leaders will need the ability to propel innovative and ethical industries that are globally competitive in rapidly transforming environment to realise the beneficial futures of work and industries and support a new generation of thriving micro, small, medium and large businesses.

 Any enquiries on this research and wish to participate please contact Selvi Kannan: or Bill Petreski

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