You will ascend in your careers at a time of generational transition similar to what is occurring now in U.S. politics. You will have the opportunity – if you choose to seize it – to redefine what it means to be a business leader by choosing to engage your talents in solving the large, complex, national and transnational problems the world is confronted with. These problems are particularly suited to the practical, imaginative, and strategic skills you have, but they also require a special brand of courage – the courage to believe that things that have not been done before can be done, and the courage to believe that you really can make a difference.
Major trends I believe will be important over the next 5 – 10 years (and beyond):
Infrastructure development (roads, dams, bridges, electrical grid, other energy, rail, air travel) – both for developing nations and for replacement/upgrading to more environmentally sound structures and processes in developed countries
Sustenance (agriculture / food production, new methods of fishing and farming, water)
Financing (specifically aimed at developing economies, Islamic finance, and new methods of providing less risky debt, asset accumulation, and entrepreneurial financing options for lower -income and bottom of pyramid customers)
Technology (merging of all current formats; technology as aid to development)
Health (pharma, disease prevention and treatment, cloning/genetic research, new methods of serving hard-to-serve populations)
Education (as aid to development and mobility for developing and developed economies)
I see business leadership roles increasingly spanning private and public sector domains, with both work assignments and careers moving between them. The requirement to work beyond national borders will feature working with transnational movements and organizations to address global problems and opportunities.
Thinking big will be important as the scale of issues to be worked on is different in kind than problems and opportunities faced by prior generations of business leaders.
Building connections and bridging differences will also be critical – thinking individual, local, and small.
I’m especially excited about the possibility of leadership that focuses on economic development as an aid to attacking intractable political problems, not as the solution, but as part of it.