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Report: Blockchain and Leadership

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

How executives are taking forward-thinking attitudes and adaptive measures to enhance procedures to remain competitive through adopting blockchain-based technological innovations
Through the change that blockchain technology brings to industry, executive functions and daily management are predicted to change: arguably for the better.

Change is the only constant in industry, but blockchain has perhaps instigated the most sizable change seen in a generation. Sectors affected by it include the expected, such as finance, markets, trading, accounting, banking, and investing. However, this list includes the unexpected as well: real estate, logistics, entertainment and media, medicine and healthcare, distributed cloud computing, and even government and charity. Previous industry disruptions through technological innovation altered their respective playing fields within their existing framework. During these changes, people looked towards those in leadership roles for direction, instruction, and—crucially—affirmation.

However, ever since blockchain innovations have begun permeating industry, they have the potential to disrupt in a more strikingly fundamental manner and, arguably, for the better. Instead of functioning within the pre-existing framework of leadership, blockchain architecture has the capacity to completely overhaul it, throwing out the need for established authorities and redistributing and decentralising decision-making processes. All this while democratising practices and making procedures transparent and accessible to all those involved.

No matter what change comes, there will always be the need for those who are willing to forge ahead, lead the change, and serve as mentors to budding new professionals. But the nature of leadership roles has the ability to adapt and evolve as well, including dedicating time and resources to what really matters while minimising other, lower order tasks.

Shifting perceptions

Industries heavily influenced by blockchain technology have traditionally revolved around strong leadership and decision-makers. In fact, “strong leadership skills” are often considered the most important trait in finance, according to research by the UK Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Here, leaders have traditionally brought their considerable experience to the table to help businesses develop protocols, create new market-leading innovations, and guide change. Plus, there is of course the gravitational attraction that influence and power brings as well.

Now, the playing field is predicted to shift with major industries soon to be disrupted including banking, legal, politics, and startups, according to recent research by business startup and innovation magazine Inc.com. Why? Because tasks typically taken care of by employees, such as money transfers in the finance sector, or lending paperwork in the real estate industry, can be done in a fraction of the time on the blockchain.

But where will this fundamental shift take leadership positions? Of note is that leaders are often guided by innovation as it fosters a more informed, transparent, and creative way of thinking, especially when striving to remain competitive and ahead of the curve. Through employing the innovation that blockchain protocols and distributed ledger technology (DLT) offer, creativity and growth are democratised and decentralized, allowing all participants to become involved.

For those in executive roles pondering where this shift leaves them, human nature assures us that the world will always have a place for strong, fair, and forward-thinking leaders. Only the nature of the tasks to-hand will be different.

Smart contracts streamline processes

Entering agreements and developing procedures has always required considerable input from the groups involved. This is understandable since contractual agreements are the cornerstone of formal interactions between people, parties, and entities, forming the basis of relationships, guidelines for eventualities, and procedures to follow. However, smart contracts are a significant disruptor as they change how participants obtain information and enter into agreements in a wide range of fields.

Thanks to smart contracts developed on the ethereum ERC20 blockchain by Vitalik Buterin et. al., developers and users programme their network and place their trust in it, rather than in the users. This essentially establishes the trustless system wherein the smart contract guarantees the procedure and executes its stages.

The potential far-reaching impact of this is that users and clients can trust that an agreement and a sequence of events will be executed when set parameters are met. For instance, during exchanges with multiple participants and set criteria required before proceeding (during real estate transactions, for example). This is significant for due diligence and know-your-customer (KYC) processes as well.

As for executives and managers, smart contracts have the significant benefit of freeing-up time spent on authorising and allowing routine operations that require their red stamp of approval. Furthermore, smart contracts streamline processes and accelerate them.

Early-adopters

Blockchain has already swept through and permeated numerous industries, most notably markets and trading in the form of cryptocurrencies. But blockchain networks and platforms are not yet the standard: widespread adoption is still a way off. There continues to be scope for early-adopters to gain a competitive advantage through researching, developing, and implementing a bespoke blockchain system.

For those persevering with the belief that blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are passing trends, knowing that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute of America has recently added blockchain and cryptocurrency topics to their exams will hopefully persuade them otherwise.

Accepting the potential that DLT holds and exploring how it can enhance business processes and procedures, boost efficiency, and improve user experience is arguably critical, and a forward-thinking move by executives.

Leadership skills

Traditional management skills are certainly not redundant with the advent of technological advances. For instance, initial coin offerings (ICOs) and security token offerings (STOs) have penetrated numerous industries and sectors and they continue to do so. Spearheading these initiatives and innovation projects requires logistical, communication, and management skills to pull together the various strands of a project. Furthermore, blockchain technology is a learning curve for the vast majority, but industry-specific knowledge and expertise is crucial to get an innovation off the ground and to deal with unexpected turns and events.

Strengthening knowledge of blockchain technology, DLT, and pre-existing networks and protocols will doubtless give any manager an advantage. When this know-how is combined with an individual’s unique industry knowledge, they will be in a position to lead new initiatives in their field and up-end traditional ways of doing business, including how client and consumer demands are met as well as streamlining processes.

ICOs and STOs aside, knowledge of the blockchain doesn’t only extend into new projects; it can also help to revitalize existing procedures, businesses, and assets. If a business doesn’t change, it runs the risk of stagnation. Applying blockchain protocols (and philosophy) to current operations is greatly beneficial as is the questioning mentality of ‘how can this process be more efficient?’ Not only can this approach help businesses bring in greater revenues, but it can also make daily business processes more efficient and less expensive including cutting out middlemen, seamless supply chains, and secure data entry, according to a recent report by Virgin Entrepreneur.

Executive tasks

Blockchain has the potential to take over many of the common tasks of management while automating business procedures, minimizing the need for managerial-level authority at each stage. In other words, managers’ time can be freed-up to focus on executive tasks such as strategy planning, creative thinking, and problem-solving.

Instead of using brain power, seniority, and experience to take care of routine leadership requirements that simply demand signing-off on work done, there is the opportunity to be ready to think bigger. With this opportunity comes the chance to dedicate more time to forward-thinking initiatives to drive growth and expand business operations.

While change can be intimidating, it’s also incredibly exciting. Blockchain has opened the door of innovation and it offers opportunities that have never before been available. This isn’t the end of leadership as we know it. Rather, it is the dawn of a new era and, with a touch of optimism, a better one for all those involved.

What is certain after all, is that being ready for change—and anticipating it—creates a highly desirable position in whichever industry you find yourself in.

Originally published on www.linguakey.co on 19 March 2019

Updated 22 March 2019


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