“Leadership is an action, not a position”- Donald McGannon

This decade started on a rather rough note, with COVID-19 gripping us. Leaders were already facing umpteen challenges in the form of technological disruptions and rapidly growing competition before COVID-19. And things have only become more intense since the pandemic. 

While the business world is not as uncertain as it was between 2020-21, it sure has given birth to many new challenges and trends that will continue to shape leadership well into the future. 

What are such leading trends leaders should watch out for in the next decade? And more importantly, what action should leaders take to survive and thrive? Let’s take a look- 

1. The Rise of AI 

While the world took notice of AI and its capabilities after the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, businesses have been using this disruptive technology for quite some time. 

According to IBM’s Global AI Adoption Index 2022, 35% of the companies reported using Artificial Intelligence in some form, and an additional 42% were exploring the technology. Going forward, AI is only expected to play a more prominent role in day-to-day business activities. 

Embracing AI as a Leader

  • Use AI to automate various time-consuming manual tasks and allow employees to focus more on high-value and strategic work. 
  • Help employees understand the benefits of using AI tools and how they can boost their efficiency and productivity. 
  • AI is yet to master human skills like problem-solving, creativity, and empathy. Thus, apart from technical skills, leaders should also focus on emotional intelligence and soft skills when hiring new employees. 
  • Also, give this piece a read that I wrote for Forbes, Leading in the AI-Powered World.  

2. Working with Remote Teams

Many companies have switched to the hybrid setup of having some employees work from the office while others work remotely. There are also entities like Airbnb, 3M, Coinbase, Atlassian, Cisco, and more that now have permanent remote working positions.  

Moreover, according to SHRM research, almost 50% of the 1,700 US employees surveyed said they’re “definitely” looking for a remote position for their next job. So, working with remote teams is another leadership trend to watch out for. 

Supporting Remote Work as a Leader

  • Maintaining frequent, consistent, and transparent communication with remote employees to ensure they don’t feel disconnected. 
  • Avoid proximity bias by evenly distributing work among all the employees and regularly appreciating and promoting remote workers. 
  • Invest in digital solutions to facilitate collaboration and make remote workers feel they are part of the team. 
  • Read this piece – Challenges for Leaders in the Pandamic-Trasnformed World, where I stress on building remote and hybrid teams apart from other challenges. 

3. The Changing Face of Company Culture

The pandemic has worked as a catalyst in transforming organizational culture. For instance, the hierarchies have flattened, decision-making has become more agile, and the need for diversity has increased tremendously. 

The rapid changes call for leaders and decision-makers to prioritize building a positive and successful company culture that aids growth and development. 

Role of Leaders in Building Company Culture

  • Know what is the ideal culture you aim for in your company
  • Compare the existing culture with your dream culture to determine what needs change. 
  • Use anonymous surveys to take inputs from your employees regarding the company culture. 

4. Empathetic Leadership

Empathy has forever been a soft skill mostly overlooked in the business world. But the tumultuous last couple of years has made empathy one of the most sought-after skills among decision-makers. 

According to a recent EY survey, 90% of US workers agree empathetic leadership results in higher job satisfaction, and 79% agree it reduces employee turnover. So, if you want to boost your leadership skills, start by being more empathetic. 

Being an Empathetic Leader

  • Demonstrate sincere interest in their team members’ dreams, hopes, and needs. 
  • Recognize the contribution of every team member and reward them regularly to boost their performance and work satisfaction. 
  • Look for signs of work burnout in your employees and regularly gauge their ability to handle the current workload. 
  • Be open to communication and provide every employee with enough opportunities to come and talk to you about matters related to their work or even personal lives.  
  • Read my piece where I talk about how Highly Emotional Intelligence Leadership is the Need of the Hour

5. Succession Planning

The only thing constant in life is change- and business leaders are not immune. So building a future-proof business also has a lot to do with how prepared it is for the inevitable. And a good chunk of being future-ready is having a succession plan. 

Leaders should identify and mentor potential employees to replace them when the time comes. While the succession plan should primarily focus on the top leadership positions, it should include all the levels of an organization. 

Building a Succession Plan

  • Start with determining all the key leadership positions, their impact on the company/department, and how the operations would be impacted if they were to leave. 
  • Pinpoint candidates you believe could step into the position of the departing team member. 
  • While most organizations prefer internal promotions, you can also consider external hiring. 
  • Once the candidate is chosen, a trial run can help you ascertain whether you’ve made the right selection. 

Leaders of the Future

Like every new decade, the next decade will also present several challenges for the leaders. How effectively you prepare yourself for the future will impact your ability to grow and lead people who trust your vision and values. 

In the process, leaders can also consider professional assistance to equip themselves and their team members with the skills necessary to survive in the future.