What will leadership look like in 2024?
The year 2023 is one that likely challenged business leaders in new and perhaps unexpected ways: from deepening economic uncertainty that reshaped business plans to protect the bottom line to the ongoing reckoning of how people—and businesses—function best in a post-COVID world. Those shifts have necessitated leaders to look inward and leverage skills they may not have needed to tap in years past—and, in many instances, hone new capabilities to help them and their organizations thrive in this new world of work. Because, ultimately, the businesses that are going to come out on top are the ones that are acutely aware of what leadership today needs to look like.
A recent report from O.C. Tanner highlights just how impactful leadership can be: Organizations with successful approaches to leadership tend to have stronger cultures, employees who enjoy effective work/life balances, greater retention rates and better profitability, among other advantages. So, what does an effective leader in 2024 look like?
Here are a number of attributes that are coming to define modern leaders—and a roadmap to help your organization develop your leadership team in this direction:
As 2023 demonstrated, business leaders can’t be prepared for everything—but they can flex their agility muscles to help them weather the unexpected. The economy is going to continue to challenge organizations, as are global conflicts, political divisions and more. And leaders who are willing to lean into agility are the ones who will help their businesses survive and thrive through these unknowns. Agility isn’t a trait learned in a one-time training: True leadership agility needs to be modeled from the top-down, with ongoing demonstrations of how being flexible and open to new ideas and opportunities can lead to true innovation.
One of the silver linings that came from COVID-19 is that employers, by and large, recognized the role that empathetic leadership can have on an organization, as managers and leaders had to lean into empathy to manage everything from a newly remote environment to worsening employee mental health. And employees, likewise, embraced the potential of empathetic leadership: An EY study recently found that nearly 90% of employees surveyed said empathetic leadership boosts employee morale and promotes inclusivity.
From soft skills training that leverages emerging technologies to mentorship and development opportunities, organizations can invest in strengthening leaders’ understanding of the power of empathy, and their own empathetic capabilities. With a leadership model that centers empathy, businesses will be better positioned in 2024 to retain top talent, recruit future high-potentials and navigate ongoing business challenges with their people at the heart of their strategies.
It’s a given that leaders should be well-attuned to the organization’s business strategy, but leaders in 2024 will need to prioritize cross-functional capabilities more than ever. As purse strings tighten, departments are going to be asked to do more with less—and that is going to mean leaders will need to be acutely aware of exactly where the business strategy is headed, so they can maximize every opportunity to get there. That will require them to work closely with other business leaders, be ready to iterate to innovate, and stay driven by the core goals of the business strategy.
The next year will be one in which many organizations lean into transformation—and leaders will be the deciding factor between a transformation that falters and one that flourishes.
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