We are now well into 2022 and leaders are experiencing major challenges while encountering many opportunities at the same time. Business leaders need to keep aware of the evolving technological, social, and environmental changes to make the most of the new landscape that is currently unfolding and will continue to change through the foreseeable future.

The ability for companies to adapt, thrive and survive in the future will be underpinned by the avoidance of complacency.

“This is the way we’ve always done things” is an attitude that needs to be forgotten! If organizations expect to keep up with changing client demands, employee needs, shifting markets and business models, change needs to become a central part of their business strategy.

With that in mind, let’s look at some leadership ‘trends’ that will define and shape the coming year and beyond. While it’s impossible to be completely ‘future-proof’, being as prepared as possible can help leaders and their teams to successfully adapt to whatever may come.

1. Deployment not employment

As leaders today, we are faced with having to lead, develop and support employees born in the 1990s and early 2000s, members of Gen X (1960s-80s), and even Baby Boomers (1940s-60s), as people are now working well into their golden years.

A challenging situation that will complicate matters even more is the intersection of generational differences and the ‘trend’ of gig workers. Some studies suggest that up to 50% of the workforce could be ‘contingent’ and not permanent. This means that leaders will have to manage a workforce that is very mobile and could be based anywhere. The global pandemic has only accelerated the acceptance of this trend!

In the near future, leadership will be about managing this deployment of workers, especially since they could be part of different teams in different time zones, working partial hours and with limited ‘love’ for your organization.

Leaders who are able to inspire and create purpose and relationships with these new teams will be the ones who succeed.

2. Continuous learning: From competitive edge to pre-requisite

Success it is NOT about how much you know, but what you DO with what you know.

These days knowledge is a given. As a result, continuous learning has to be something that every leader must focus on. With the increasing demands and pace of change within the world today, employees and leaders need to be at the top of their game when it comes to their knowledge, skills and abilities. But that’s only the start.

In order to be truly successful, every person needs to take action with what they know. They need to use what they learn to make the organization faster, smarter, leaner, differentiated, and more valuable to their clients.

If the member of your team are not learning every day – and more importantly, using it to make a difference – then you need to explore ways to ensure learning is institutionalized. Furthermore, you have to ensure that team members are rewarded for acting on what they’ve learned – not simply learning.

3. Accountability is required

With the new way of working that includes remote working and flex-hours becoming more the norm, there are plenty of reasons to worry about the challenge of maintaining accountability. Accountability is lost on teams who are not given expectations, or who have no understanding of what happens when expectations are not met.

Effective leaders will create processes, structures, and a culture of accountability in their organization to navigate this new challenge imposed by the new workforce. When we start with assigning responsibilities for each person, hold individuals accountable for results, and create an environment where trial and error is embraced, ownership is then taken.

4. Leaders must lead cultural development, not just HR

Too many organizations and leaders practice a hierarchical, top-down, siloed, one-size-fits-all approach. Structures have been built to manage according to these principles. Real leaders must transition their organization into 21st century by taking ownership of the organizational culture and intentionally designing it, living it, and leading it.

Human resources cannot be expected to be the only ones driving company culture. Culture must be designed based on where the organization is headed, its future vision, and its business model and strategy. There must be alignment of the business strategy and the people strategy – this is culture.

This idea of culture building cannot be relegated only onto the backs of HR. It is strategically important for every leader to be involved in driving organizational culture – and to ensure everyone lives according to its values and desired results. EVERY leader plays a role in ensuring work environments are not infused with tension and stress but are instead places of practical purpose and real meaning.

5. Moving from the “old ways” to the new reality

A basic belief within most organizations is that that revenue and monetization comes first and everything else follows. I have lived with this same belief over the years – and ended up with the same results every time – lowered profits, higher turnover, and decreased sales.

In today’s world, providing value comes first, with monetization second. If you provide enough value to your clients, the revenue follows in spades! Exceeding client expectations almost assures their return.

Meeting client expectations has never created the right results. Companies who only meet expectations consistently lose clients to those companies that provide greater value. We need to STOP encouraging our teams to meet expectations and encourage them to exceed expectation. Although meeting expectations may get you the deal, exceeding expectations gets you the relationship.

Leading in an Uncertain World

In uncertain times, people look to leadership more than ever. The good news is that as a leader, this is your opportunity to make an even greater impact. It won’t be easy, but it will be well worth the effort!