The Future of Leadership Development in 2021 and Beyond

The Future of Leadership Development in 2021 and Beyond
The need for a change mindset has become even more pertinent after the pandemic which forced all of us beyond imagination and pushed us to come out of our comfort zones.

The Future of Leadership Development in 2021 and Beyond

Year 2020 was an extraordinary year for all of us in more than one ways. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world significantly and it was definitely the most demanding test of organizational and leadership resilience. That calls for a need to rethink the conventional leadership development strategy because today’s world needs leadership skills and competencies different from what have helped leaders succeed in the past. Year 2021 will be the year of transition and the future of leadership development, as I see, would entail:

Adopting a Change Mindset

In today’s VUCA world, it’s extremely important for leaders to develop a change mindset where they are more receptive and are looking for ways to go beyond the established norms. This is a marked change from a traditional approach that only aimed at developing leaders with expertise in areas with relatively well-defined and forecasted outcomes.

The need for a change mindset has become even more pertinent after the pandemic which forced all of us beyond imagination and pushed us to come out of our comfort zones. Hence, it’s important for leaders to develop a change mindset and understand the opportunities that any change is likely to bring.

Empathetic Leadership       

In a recent survey on workplace empathy by Business Solver, more than 90% of HR professionals, CEOs, and employees felt that empathy is important but only 48% employees felt that their organization is empathetic. Empathy in leadership has been underrated as a competency but it’s imprudent to disregard it anymore. The need for empathetic leadership became even more critical in 2020 as the world was reeling under the pandemic and people were looking towards their leaders for assurance and to dispel their concerns & apprehensions.

Having empathy towards others allows you to appreciate the space from which they are operating and understand their context. Empathy allows leaders to go deep into the root cause of a problem and enable people to solve them. Having empathy towards its people allows leaders to build stronger relationships, gaining them loyalty & unwavering commitment. I strongly believe it would be one of the defining trends in 2021.

Collective Leadership

Leadership development has been focused on an individual or a person for too long now. However, today, organizations are faced with problems and challenges which may call for synchrony between various stakeholders which often cross geographies, reporting lines, etc. and one needs to collaboratively create plans, solve problems, and make decisions.

This is a huge shift from the old paradigm when leadership resided in a particular person or a role to a new age phenomenon where leadership is a collective process that is spread across networks of people. Organizations must look to develop inclusion and collaboration as core competencies within their culture to help leaders take everyone along the road to success.  

Leading Diverse Teams

McKinsey in their recent research shared that “the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability” and companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30. Hence, it’s a no-brainer that our future workplaces would comprise of a diverse and inclusive workforce in terms of different cultural backgrounds, sexuality, gender, beliefs, abilities, and much more.

Leaders should lay emphasis on building a diverse workplace that allows room for different ideas and thoughts. A diverse workforce brings with itself a diverse range of skills, experiences, and perspectives which can greatly contribute to the success of any organization. But leading a diverse team presents unique challenges as one is expected to understand different cultures, generational differences, etc. Hence, it’s important for leaders to learn, unlearn, learn ways to engage diverse teams.

Building Trust

Trust is an essential element in every business as it paves way for cooperation and increases employee commitment & discretionary effort. A leader’s ability to inspire trust in others is significant step in motivating their people. However, building trust is not easy and leaders are often wary of bestowing it on others as it requires vulnerability on their part.

Traditionally, leadership has been all about an individual’s vision, strategy, charisma, etc. but leadership isn’t about you. According to Harvard Business Review “Leadership is about empowering other people as a result of your presence, and about making sure that the impact of your leadership continues into your absence.” Hence, future of leadership lies in developing leaders who can gain their people’s trust and empower them to exploit their potential to reach new heights.

In 2021, organizations are all set to face a more complex and competitive environment than ever before. Therefore, leaders need to develop competencies as per the changing times so that they can thrive in this ever-changing business environment. I personally believe that it’s an exciting phase in the business world and there is much for leaders across sectors and globe to learn.


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