If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s the eye-rolling predictability of unpredictability. But somewhat paradoxically, for leaders, two truths have emerged as constants.
First, it’s safe to say that uncertainty and the need to adapt – both as leaders and organizations – will remain staples in our lives as 2021 rolls out. And second, we can reliably bank on the importance of strong leadership for success.
With the challenges of last year fresh in mind, it’s why we asked over a hundred leaders what their ideal 2021 would look like. In other words:
Where would you like to focus?
Here are some ambitions you might be able to relate to, for inspiration.
1. To (Re)Connect With Others
As shock after shock made existing pain points and strategic weaknesses more apparent than ever last year, leaders have worried about the health, happiness, and work-life balance of those they lead.
In 2020, survival and damage control were foremost on many organizational agendas, and leaders feel they have lost touch with their teams. This year, it seems the frustration of trying to ‘keep team spirit alive’ while steering change at a pace will be a key driver for many to shift the focus to ‘togetherness’.
In the words of one team manager, “Connection (even virtual connection), is above all else. And WHOLE HUMAN leadership so my team can bring their whole selves to work.”
It means, as another puts it, that it’s time to: “Improve on empathy and developing my EQ.”
What About Me?
Some inspiring ambitions included:
- Listening more
- Cultivating and strengthening important influencing skills
- Adopting a more mentoring and less ‘directive’ style of leadership, and
- Creating a culture that prioritizes belonging, caring, and support.
2. To Empower Others
Even as Zoom veterans, fostering team engagement and ownership has been tiring with the human or face-to-face element is missing. But increasingly more industries and businesses adopt digital as the norm, and the importance of virtual influencing skills will be vital for success.
That’s especially true in an uncertain environment, where creative responses to uncertainty are the key to survival and success.
It’s a truth that has inspired many leaders – if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that active involvement and input from everyone is going to be essential. For innovation and fast, courageous, transformation, as one leader describes: “My goal is to build agile teams with high collective intelligence…and focus on empowering them. Creating an ownership mentality.”
What About Me?
You can invite more initiative and ownership from others by:
- Creating clarity around a compelling vision
- Ensuring access to the latest, most up-to-date sources of knowledge for the whole team
- Focusing more on “Why” and creativity instead of KPIs (or Principles over Rules)
- Engaging co-workers in solving problems collaboratively, and
- Being more open to new ideas and input from others
3. To Lead By Example
In uncertain times, strong leaders move people from a state of fear, to purposeful action. In creating environments where co-workers feel comfortable showing initiative, it means many leaders have taken it on themselves to lead by example.
This will mean everything from cultivating a positive work-life balance to facing adversity with a resilience that inspires the same in others.
One respondent describes this as: “Sticking to what I preach.” Because, after all, “If I can’t stick to my rules, my team is less likely to and my customers will not get the results they really want.”
What About Me?
In their drive for self-growth, leaders are focusing more than ever on personal development in a range of areas.
Some inspiring examples include:
- Involving more stakeholders for more customer-centric decisions
- Giving and inviting more feedback, and
- Practicing a more communitarian style of leadership
Over To You
In 2021, leaders will need to continue making decisions, driving change, and steering their organizations forward through uncertainty. In an environment that requires increasing agility, speed, and creativity, it’s clear that human skills will matter more than ever.
By focusing on connection, influence, and self-development, the leaders we spoke to are turning the last year’s hard-earned knowledge into actions that will bring them and their companies forward.
What ambitions have inspired you the most?