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The Alternative Board Blog

5 Trends in Leadership for 2020 Every Business Leader Must Know

Dec. 24, 2019 | Posted by The Alternative Board
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Leadership trends come and go, but in 2020 one principle remains constant. The obligation of business leaders is to lead—to have a firm grasp on the big picture, and the knowledge and self-confidence to take action when it’s necessary to do so.

At the same time, leadership trends for 2020 point to a wide range of new skill sets that leaders should adopt. We all face continuous uncertainty in the realms of business, culture, politics, and life in general. But CEOs and business owners carry a special burden in that coping with change isn’t something that affects them in isolation. The decisions they make in 2020 and beyond affect a wide range of stakeholders, and therefore entail more responsibility than leaders in other areas.

Here are five trends in leadership for the new year:

1. Seize opportunities and identify areas of growth.

A new year promises to unveil new business and growth opportunities. It’s up to leaders to absorb all relevant data, discern potential underlying trends, and then identify precisely how their business can exploit these new opportunities. This includes broadening their understanding of cultural differences, and areas where new customer-acquisition opportunities present themselves.

2. Become more adept at employee management.

Business leaders and CEOs aren’t generally responsible for directly managing their workforce, but they are increasingly expected to understand how new generations of workers influence the organization’s direction. It’s likely they will look for new opportunities to interact with their human resources executives to focus on more effective delegation of tasks and enhanced channels of communications.

3. Understand where opportunity gaps exist.

In the new year, leaders are expected to identify what workplace learning specialist DeakinCo. calls “gaps in opportunity.” This involves recognizing potential threats posed by competitors, as well as “broadening observations to find opportunities, exploring new frontiers, and identifying timing and depth of opportunity”—a fancy way of describing a new approach to getting things done and meeting corporate goals.

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4. Strengthen your leadership soft skills.

As always, certain leadership soft skills will continue to be in demand in 2020. These include refinements in:

  • Active listening. Focus less on what you have to say, and more on what others are saying, as well as how they express themselves in body language and non-verbal cues.
  • Emotional intelligence. Learn how to “read” people, refine your message accordingly, and strive to connect with them on an emotional level.
  • Communications. Be sure your message is completely clear. Craft language that inspires and motivates, regardless of stakeholder audiences.

Also, vulnerability will become a more valued soft skill. “If you are able to be vulnerable to others first, they will feel more inclined to open up to you,” notes Fast Company, “which creates a stronger sense of trust.” In the end, trust is the most essential bond a leader can build with the people they lead.

5. Become a champion of change.

It’s been clear for some time, but 2020 will confirm every business leader’s suspicion that the marketplace is always in flux (some call this “chaos”). Rather than resist this unstoppable trend, savvy business leaders will find ways to embrace and encourage a culture of change, where people enthusiastically adapt to dynamic business and workplace situations.

“Nothing is set in stone anymore, nothing is truly certain,” states Business2Community. Leaders will stay aware—and require others to stay aware—that “someone somewhere is working on something that disrupts the market at any given point of the day.”

Learn more about managing change in the year to come. Register to hear our free TAB BOSS Webinar, “Change Management and Change Leadership.”

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board