To answer the question posed in today’s headline: Without a doubt. Leading has never been easy, and the future is undeniably challenging.
Leaders today need to engage more diverse personalities and motivations, providing more mentorship and continual learning, not only to develop a broader skill set, but to dance between leadership approaches continuously.
External factors such as the dynamic business and societal landscapes, the erosion of trust in workplaces, and changes in generational aspirations also add layers to leaders’ challenges.
Even on the shop floor, leadership is no longer about mere task delegation; it now hinges on motivating and inspiring teams. Increasingly the soft side of leadership is the key to creating an environment where individuals are propelled to excel.
As the award-winning leadership writer Tanveer Naseer says, leadership isn’t just hard — it’s destined to become even more demanding in the years ahead. Changing with the times and breaking free from old habits is a struggle. We’ve all seen or experienced it personally. We’re often caught up in business-focused leadership, our primary duty, rather than addressing leadership gaps.
Leadership success in 2024 will require not just pushing business numbers, but simultaneously juggling business smarts, team happiness and personal growth. Future success requires a pivot towards a people-centric approach to leadership, and a more business-centric and keener understanding of our organisations.
So how? Leadership is highly contextual. In my organisation I intend to prepare my leaders at all levels to:
Better understand the commercial landscape: I believe leadership development efforts in 2024 need to go beyond soft skills and incorporate business acumen. We tend to expect leaders to excel in business, understand profit and loss, know the business landscape, create and drive strategies, but not everyone has a degree in business.
I want to ensure my leaders at all levels have a deep knowledge of our business model and develop their ability to come up with effective plans designed to reach company goals and adapt to changes in the market or within the organisation. Additionally, I want to improve their understanding of the balance sheet, income statements, and profit and loss. Finally, I will make sure they stay up to date with trends etc.
Share accountability and build “leaders”: Collaboration and delegation are now the keystones of leadership success at every level. Bossing people around is a thing of the past. Leadership is more than ticking off tasks; it’s about igniting a fire in your team. I will teach my leaders to create an environment where people work together in service of a shared goal.
Also empower employees to hold leaders accountable and encourage open dialogue between team members and their leaders. Another way to make leaders and managers accountable is to provide regular feedback and coaching on the new behaviour expected.
Practise change: Adaptation is a challenge for leaders, especially as we age and become entrenched in specific leadership styles. The difficulty in changing persists even after new training. We need to challenge our leaders’ ingrained thought processes. This is important because successful change starts at the top, and leaders need to be actively and visibly involved.
I will begin by making the case for the change we seek, develop a clear vision and desired outcome, and identify a common goal. We must hold people accountable for behaviour changes. And often overlooked, we must learn from successes, and use these to stretch leaders’ comfort zones.
Listen more than talk: Active listening is one of the important leadership behaviours and requires leaders to listen attentively and use them as inputs in order to actually do so. I encourage my leaders to focus on understanding rather than formulating their response. This involves creating an environment where the other person feels understood, and leaders should demonstrate active engagement and enthusiasm.
Remember, it will take time.
The organisation should be better because of its leaders, but the necessary changes cannot be taught in a class. Every leader at every level must build their own version of leadership, including learning and applying it as well.
It takes time. However, this is an important reframe because it will create impacts for our organisation. Remember: successful leadership in one organisation does not mean success in other organisations. Your 2024 leadership must be designed to suit the context of yours.
Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer, Managing Director, and Founder at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She is fascinated by the challenge of transforming education for all to create better prospects for Thais and people everywhere. Reach her email at email@example.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa