Competencies for Education in the Future 

The rate of change in the world today is greater than our ability to respond. In a world that is often described as VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous), there are major shifts that demand a new mindset in higher education. A new set of conpetencies are needed to be succesful in the world, now and in the future.

leadership is part of being a professional

Leadership in the new world is beyond external tags and titles. It is part of being a professional. It is about serving effectively to the needs of the stakeholders.
Professionals are designers of the systems for the future. They do so by building an emotional infrastructure, organization structures, methods and processes. If organizations are purposeful networks of people, professionals need a compelling purpose that people in the organization share.


With a hyper connected workforce, organization cultures have become transparent. This opens opportunities for everyone. Employees are more and more volunteers for the company because they have global choices. In this world, having a compelling purpose is a mandatory pre-requisite for profits to follow. Traditional hierarchical structures are fading away to give way to purposeful networks/communities of people working together to achieve a shared purpose. The cumulative impact of these forces demands a new mindset and competencies in higher education. Only than we will contribute to the kind of leaders who are able to stay relevant and make a positive difference to people and business.


If you are a student who aspires to become a future leader, who wants to make a difference, here are a few critical competencies and skills you need. If you are a professional in education or a leader at any level, here are some critical competencies and skills you need.

frequent feedback

To navigate successfully through the challenges of VUCA, students need to be comfortable with unclear situations and work into unexplored paths. Students will encounter ‘first time’ situations more often. This means we have to practice this to still deliver results. With a ‘rapid prototyping’ approach, students need to experiment to get early and frequent feedback that enables constant realignment.

adaptive mindset

With an adaptive mindset students see possibilities where a constraint mindset sees challenges. A student has the ability to spot the white spaces, unique problems and interdisciplinary intersections. This is as critical, now and in the future, as the ability to ‘do something about it’.


have a vision

Vision is a perpetual force, a critical anchor that drives decisions, actions and judgments. With a younger workforce that is purpose driven, having a compelling vision is a key driver of engaging. This will make the difference in retaining high performing team members. In fact, a compelling vision is an important pre-requisite for any community or network to succeed. Students who will thrive in the future are the ones who have a clear vision of where they want their organizations and teams to be.

agile learner

Rapidly changing context asks for students to learn constantly in a self-directed mode. Students have to be constantly curious and carry a ‘beginners mind’ which is also willing to un-learn. Students need meta-cognition and awareness of the bigger picture. When thrown into unfamiliar situations, students need to learn immersively from those experiences and unlearn where needed.
In the VUCA world, succesful students are constantly scanning the horizon, being future minded and having strategic foresight without losing the sight of the current reality.


Students cannot succeed unless their personal vision and values overlap with the vision and values of the organization. Students can only make a difference when they are aware of their preferences, ways of working and possible blind spots. Only than they can bring their true authentic selves into the game and bring about a significant difference to the team, organization, industry and society.
When changes around us are constant and rapid, professionals have to use the wisdom from their future mindedness and strategic foresight to ‘create change’.


To make sense of changing trends, practices and expectations, students need to collaborate relentlessly within and outside the organization. A social mindset enables students to create, engage with and nurture purposeful business and social networks through social media and in-person communication.

One of the biggest professional challenges is to create an environment that taps into intrinsic motivation of people. This environment is created when people understand the basic drivers of human engagement. It is about the need for trust, the need to have a hope, the need to feel a sense of worth and the need to feel competent.

We need students who can build trust through integrity and results, who can mentor and coach others, who can clarify the meaning of the work people do and build a positive influence. And because professionals in education need to be life-long students this also counts for them.

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