Top leadership challenges for the next five years

Written by Poppy Boothroyd, Senior R&D Consultant

The future of leadership is no longer about preparing for digital disruption and transformation, but more about embracing and adapting to it. So, what are the top challenges leaders will face in the next five years?

In Talogy’s recent international research study on leadership, we asked employees and leaders for their perspectives on what they expected to be the most prominent leadership challenges in the future. Provided with a list of 14 potential challenges – plus the opportunity to indicate their own – five core themes were highlighted:

Challenge #1: attracting and retaining talent

Attracting and retaining talent came out on top for both leaders and employees, which reflects the changing work environment post-pandemic. Remote or hybrid working will likely be a permanent fixture and this has broadened the landscape of where people can work. With a call for ‘hire to retire,’ there is now much more pressure on leaders to create working environments where employees can flourish, have an impact, and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Where recruitment is needed, leaders need to be proactive or risk the sustainability of their business function.

Challenge #2: motivating and engaging employees

With new challenges around talent management, there is now greater emphasis on leaders to keep their teams ‘motivated and engaged.’ Employees want to have their views heard and acted on. This requires leaders to forgo control and be more open-minded about the ideas and perspectives of what their employees – those on the frontline – can bring. Furthermore, employees want clear direction, with a vision and strategy that leads to attainable goals and success rather than sets them up for failure.

Challenge #3: employee well-being

A need for more human-centred leadership was called out by leaders, organizations, and employees during the pandemic, and the tone continues with ‘employee well-being,’ which is considered one of the top five future leadership challenges. Responsible and compassionate leadership was important for the immediate recovery post-pandemic but is arguably just as important for ongoing leadership development and practice. Employees increasingly expect their organizations to consider the employee experience and not solely focus on revenue goals.

Challenge #4: collaboration and communication

From an employee perspective, future success of organizations depends on leaders that communicate more openly, clearly, and efficiently. Leaders also felt they could communicate better and suggested they could be more articulate and conscious of who they were talking to and what would resonate most with that audience. There was also a clear desire to improve collaboration in a working world where remote or hybrid working is now likely to be more the norm than the exception in many sectors.

Challenge #5: remote or hybrid working

Many leaders will have to adapt to hybrid or remote working, adjusting their leadership style and ways of communicating accordingly. This will require leaders to get better at understanding how teams work and how to encourage collaboration and inclusivity. There will also be a need for greater trust and empowerment of employees, something that isn’t new but arguably more prominent with remote or hybrid working. Leaders need to trust their employees are not only working, but that they are able to choose how and even when they work.

What’s missing?

It is also interesting to look at what didn’t make the top five. For example, digitalization and agile working ranked lower. This again highlights the subtle shift in expectations of leaders, where enabling and creating a positive working environment is seen as the most important part of their role. This might also reflect that for many leaders and employees, the pace of change and impact of technology is something they may already accept as normal context within the contemporary world of work.

Leading in the future world of work

As the world of work continues to change, the role and attributes of leaders continues to be debated and reviewed.

What are the most important changes and opportunities brought on by Covid-19, resulting in the biggest global leadership challenge in decades?

Download our research report now and explore our insights into four critical leadership themes:

  • The impact of leadership on organizational performance
  • The impact of leadership on the employee experience
  • Lessons learned from leadership in the pandemic
  • Future of leadership – critical challenges and responses
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