Leadership Trends

5 Leadership Trends in 2020

Emily BarrCoaching & Leadership, Leaders, Thought Leadership


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Leadership Trends


Leadership Trends in 2020 


In a time of ongoing, and unprecedented, organizational disruption, being a great leader is critical in keeping your organization on track towards success, even in the face of unfamiliar challenges. As a leader, it is important to recognize disruptions not as obstacles that will hinder your advancement as a company, but rather opportunities to improve upon existing organizational processes, or develop new ones better suited to the modern business world.  


Why is it Important to Stay Up to Date on Current Leadership Trends? 

If a leader wants to be truly engaged with the work they are doing, they need to stay on top of all the current trends that are influencing their company, industry, team members, and themselves. Today, organizations world-wide are seeing massive macroeconomic shifts in the market, shifts which are largely impacting the finances, success, and morale of the company. Being a good leader is as critical as ever, and a central component of that is reframing the way in which you approach leadership itself. 

Changes, whether rapid or gradual, familiar or unfamiliar, should serve as indicators for how to improve on how the company is operating. Disruptions can be challenging to navigate, especially when they are deeply unfamiliar and unprecedented like those companies are feeling today. But, they also have the potential to be a great source of inspiration when envisioning the future of the company, leading to new methods of organizational operations that may not have been possible as recently as last year.  


Innovation in Leading the Disruption 

Every disruption has the possibility to open another door to bigger and better opportunities. The key is to recognize which business drivers are critical in the emergence of disruptions. Some of the annual trends that drive organizational change include: 


Accelerating Disruption

Evidently, organizations are facing one of the largest disruptions they have likely ever had to deal with in recent history. Instilling plans of actions for recovery is critical, but so too is the acknowledgement that other disruptions are not on pause while you deal with this one. Companies should continue to monitor market trends and disruption risks and have a plan of action for how to leverage those disruptions for strategic advantage. A critical part of this is recognizing the importance of disruption itself, and the opportunities that can arise if you manipulate the outcome of those disruptions in your favour. 

But how can you go about monitoring those trends, especially when so much of the market is in a major downturn currently? One essential method is the strategic business resilience planning process. Similar to how many organizational operating standards are rapidly changing in response to the effects of COVID-19, this process looks much different now than it did in the past. Its central aim, however, remains the same: to provide a structure for leaders to use when they consider both current and potential organizational disruptions. This process systematically lays out the stepos of envisioning the future of your company, enabling leaders to develop a business strategy that can turn disruption into business advantage.  


Adaptive Leadership

As business processes are changing and evolving to adapt to disruptions, so too should leaders. When a company faces a disruption that forces deep-rooted change in how operations are carried out, leaders need to be able to elevate the quality of their leadership to meet those new demands. 

Adaptive leadership can be seen as a practical leadership framework, helping both individuals and larger teams and organizations adapt to changing environments so they can effectively respond to recurring or sudden disruptions in a timely manner.  


Organizational Innovation

Well designed and executed innovation pushes any organization to the top of the competitive market, setting them apart of what they can offer to potential clients, customers, and shareholders. What many organizations fail to recognize, however, is how closely linked innovation is to adaptability. 

In times where disruption is the new norm, companies need to build innovation into their DNA. They need to get comfortable with the idea of constantly updating and adapting what they do, and how they do it, to meet evolving strategic goals and mend new issues that arise in those processes. Essentially, while leaders elevate their leadership, they should simultaneously be updating the overall systems, processes, and cultural beliefs that underpin their companies.  


Digital Transformation

Many leaders view the implementation of digital processes as a step in the right direction towards innovation and success. However, while it is critical to be effective at leveraging digital tools where appropriate, digital transformation itself has the ability to destroy value as well.  

When so many organizations are shifting to remote work that relies on digital connectivity and technological processes rather than in-person methods of business, the lines between the physical and digital worlds are becoming more and more blurred. Digital transformation is a trillion-dollar industry that aims to integrate digital technology into all aspects of business. However, the painful reality is that almost all digital transformation efforts fail. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, 70% of complex, large-scale technological change programs don’t reach their stated goals. In order to be successful in implementing these tools effectively and efficiently, leaders need to consider the realistic outcomes that such a transformative change will have on their organization. 


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The Top 5 Leadership Trends of Today 

 When so many organizations are busy navigating a new way of working that is unfamiliar, the priority might be less on innovation and more on simply staying afloat. However, that doesn’t mean leadership trends fall to the wayside. In fact, many of them can be utilized to your advantage, strengthening your ability to successfully lead your organization through this disruption and boost overall morale, and ultimately, organizational success. 

Here are some of the top leadership trends of 2020 that can help you to better your means of leadership, even in times of crisis: 


1. Increase in Flexible Schedules

Offering flexibility in how employees work might seem an impossible task when work is required to be remote. However, implementing a system of a shorter workweek for example, may in fact be the solution.  A recent study also proved that employee morale improves with flexible work schedule arrangements, with over 90% of employees agreeing their enthusiasm for work would increase if their leaders were to be more lenient in discussions of time scheduling. 

Leaders should remain steadfast in reinforcing the requirements and expectations for the work quality and amount that is expected from their employees, but they should remain receptive to new ways of providing flexibility to their employees.  


2. Leading Remote Workers

As flexible scheduling increases, so too does the number of remote workers you have to manage. Not only that, but many organizations today are managing a near-complete remote workforce. Some may be finding that the reduced cost for employers to run the workspace, and the reduced commute times and costs for employees, are benefitting the organization. Some others, however, may be finding that their workplace-accustomed employees are having trouble adapting to this new way of working. 

As beneficial as remote work may be for some employees, not all will be receptive to it, especially when it is their only option. Workplaces are slowly reopening across the country, but workers and leaders alike should still be well-equipped to manage and work in remote settings as efficiently as they work in-office. Some general strategies leaders can use to remedy the unique challenges of remote work can include: 

  • Remembering that remote team members will have varying responses to the new standards and expectations involved in remote work and that some employees have challenging work-from-home disruptions 
  • Building and maintaining trust-based relationships, as much of the work you could monitor in-office, will be done without your direct supervision 
  • Setting clear standards for conduct and expectations for work 
  • Constantly communicating and maintaining a positive, morale-boosting company culture 
  • Getting employees together face-to-face via online video chatting meeting rooms to increase communication and limit isolation  


3. Increase in Accountability

In the 2020 business market, accountability and radical transparency are more prominent than ever.  In the digital age where workflow and demands travel at rapid speeds, and where employees are digitally connected, executive leaders cannot afford to be uncommunicative with critical information. Similarly, with the abrupt increase in remote work, the need for personal accountability in employees and managers alike is skyrocketing. 

As a leader, managing accountability is one of the most critical parts of ensuring your relationship with your employees is trustworthy and strong.   


4. Employees Developing New Skills

The trends and advances that exist in the business world reflect the changes that are taking place around us. As the world constantly evolves and adapts to new situations and crises, so too do the workings of organizations worldwide. Employees grow, roles morph, and processes adapt to the changing demands of the market and the needs of the business. As a result of that, people need to constantly be acquiring new skills. 

Companies need to have a clearly defined process of how it is they are assisting their employees to develop the new and necessary skills required to succeed in the constantly evolving world.  While leaders cannot make people develop new skills, they can influence and challenge them to take the necessary steps. 


5. Human Resources: A Constantly Growing Field

Human Resource professionals play strategic and important role as the world faces an unfamiliar challenge and workers are navigating a technological, distinctly un-human way of working Ensuring people adjust to their WFH environments is in fact, a very diverse undertaking.  Several studies conclude that employees are battling everything from loneliness to remembering to take breaks while combating the distractions of their small children’s needs.  There are also connectivity issues and coaching opportunities to engage employees in finding new ways in managing their workloads…to mention a few. HR will be tasked with extending support mechanisms that do ensure work continuance while respecting employee’s unique and personal needs. 


Leadership in Times of Distress 

Being a leader today is particularly daunting, but there is help to navigate your way through this unfamiliar territory. There is a surplus of resources available including your own colleagues. A trend emerging is to establish a weekly online leadership forum that builds on the exchange of ideas and collective support of the new leader’s requirements. 


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