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Leadership Development – Essentials and Trends for 2024

Leadership Development - Essentials and Trends for 2024

by Judith Hirst, Greenbank’s Head of Leadership Development

As we start this year’s leadership programmes, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of the trends in leadership development that we have seen throughout the last few years and consider what 2024 might bring!

I think it is safe to say that we have all learnt over the last few years that the future can be somewhat unpredictable, however there are some emerging leadership trends that we have seen towards the end of last year that we expect to continue into 2024 – and some new ones we are expecting…

Evolving Trends from 2023

Agile Leadership

Agile leaders empower their teams by providing a clear vision and goals, encouraging collaboration, and removing obstacles. If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that a good leader needs to be able to pre-empt and initiate change rather than just reacting and adapting to change. So, no surprise then that agile leadership has become a core feature of leadership development. In fact, in 2023 we were asked more and more by our clients to include Agile Leadership skills into our core training curriculum.

Data Driven Leadership

This is another theme that cannot really be called a trend so much as an evolving constant. Data driven leadership involves constantly listening to and interrogating evidence. Today’s successful leaders know how to use data in all aspects of their role from strategic decision-making through to how to prioritise and manage their time and how to get the very best from their people. Gone are the days when intuition or ‘gut feel’ are sufficient to support decision making! 

There is however still some confusion in what actually makes a data driven leader, and there is a tendency of course for people to use data selectively – you just have to look at the current political debates either side of the Atlantic to realise that people can always find data to support their own argument! So, data driven leadership is more than having information to support your actions – it is using this to really understand what is happening.

Intentional Leadership

Intentional leadership, at its core, involves being conscious and thoughtful in all our actions as leaders. These skills have been found to lead to achieving better results, and more consistent outcomes. On the flip side, if leaders are perceived to be reactive or unintentional then this has shown to result in a loss of confidence, alignment, and productivity among their teams, and even a loss of talent.

The main aspects of Intentional Leadership are a clear sense of purpose, the ability of self-reflection and clarity of communication – all skills

Empathetic Leadership

The classic stereotype of the cold impersonal leader has finally seen its long march out (better late than never!) and has been replaced with empathetic leaders building trust and loyalty in their team. Empathetic Leaders understand and empathise with their teams and they create a culture of trust and collaboration. We also now have a much greater understanding of the link between tangible business results and leadership empathy, which makes this a compelling argument…

From our experience, two key aspects of Empathetic Leadership are Emotional Intelligence (EI) which enhances decision-making, communication, and relationship-building. The second is compassion which has been show to build both resilience and innovation within teams. Empathetic Leadership is not only an essential leadership skill already it is also a vital building block for many of the leadership trends that have been predicted in 2024

New Leadership Trends for 2024

In addition to the above, there are some leadership capabilities that we predict will be the top skills for this year that both differentiate organisations from their competitors and attract top talent. 

These might not yet be commonplace capabilities, and you probably won’t see them on job descriptions any time soon, but developing these skills now should put you in good stead for the challenges that you will likely face in 2024 and beyond!

Leading in AI

We are obviously just at the start of an AI revolution and while the concept has started to be incorporated in more roles, we have not yet really seen yest how it impacts leadership roles. As the AI genii is certainly not going back into the bottle, we all need to start figuring out how AI works in our lives, and that is true for leadership.

If your business isn’t currently using AI, chances are they are already considering implementing it in the future so now is a great time to get ahead of the curve and start figuring out how AI can streamline your work. A good place to start is looking at how AI can be used to save time on all those tedious and repetitive tasks through automation. If it can help you manage that seemingly never-ending mailbox, it is certainly worth investing the time to find how AI can help!

Top Tip: Make AI a consistent agenda point in every executive meeting and personally keep up to speed with the changing AI landscape…

Continuous Leadership Learning

There is little doubt that the skills we need as leaders are changing rapidly – a recent study has shown that the required core skillsets for advertised roles have changed by around 25% since 2015 and that figure is expected to double by 2027.   

In response, we have been seeing companies and HR departments discussing the importance of promoting a culture of learning and continuous learning for a while now – but one of the blocks they come up against is leadership teams who are not changing as quickly and still see personal development as something for others!  

Top Tip:  When leaders prioritise their own professional development, it sets a powerful example for their teams. So, 2024 is a good time to start thinking about how you and your leadership team can benefit from upskilling and continuous learning.

Excellent Hybrid Leadership

The debate around hybrid working has been a constant throughout 2023, and it seems like the only thing we can be sure of is that hybrid working, at least in some form, is here to stay. Many leaders in hybrid working teams have been feeling their way through these new ways of working over the last few years but we are now starting to realise just how differently we need to approach leadership in a hybrid workplace. We predict that in 2024 developing hybrid leadership skills will be one of the very top growing leadership capabilities.

Managing Burnout and Wellbeing

One of the many changes brought about by the pandemic has been increased awareness and emphasis placed on organisations’ responsibilities towards their people – and there are far too many factors still affecting us all, whether this is cost of living increases, global conflicts or political turmoil.  As a result, many studies have shown that ‘burnout’ is at an all-time high – often leaving affected employees feeling exhausted, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Studies into the cause of burnout identified 5 key features:

  1. Excessive workloads
  2. Imbalance between managers expectations and the resources provided to team members
  3. Lack of control
  4. Lack of meaningful rewards
  5. Lack of a sense of community

The impact of burnout on work includes decreased attention span, lower productivity, reduced quality of work, and being more prone to making mistakes. 

Importantly, it has been shown that burnout most frequently impacts our highest performing team members.  Burnout also has a massive financial cost to the economy and to organisations, it has been estimated to cost the UK economy £28 billion (see study by AXA UK).  We predict that in 2024 leaders who actively support their teams’ wellbeing and prevent burnout will be in high demand.

Top Tip:  Make wellbeing a consistent factor in all team communication and an agenda point on your meetings!

Inclusive Leadership

In the last few years, we have seen an increased emphasis on diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) with a rise in specialist DEI roles and many companies setting ambitious hiring policies, pledges, and commitments.  During 2024 we predict this trend to continue but be more fully imbedded in organisational polices, processes and bottom-line reporting.
Greater transparency will also mean that this needs more than paying lip service to DEI – and if you want to ensure that DEI is not seen as only existing on the company website but actually is resulting in a real change in behaviours, it will require inclusive leadership at all levels to model the way…

Questions to ask yourself and your leadership teams…

  • Are you really aware of your own biases?
  • Do you actively seek out and consider different perspectives to inform your decision-making
  • Do you proactively make sure that all individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, feel valued, respected, and heard.
  • Do you consistently and overtly challenge biases in others?

Continuous Leadership Learning

People with high Cool Blue energy type appreciate the importance of in-depth data, facts, and figures. They are less expressive than other personality types. They are concerned with facts rather than emotion, and likely won’t need (or want) to spend time getting to know you on a personal level. In conversation, they pride themselves on being serious and direct – and will judge you the same way! 

As buyers they’ll look past a flowery pitch and get straight to the facts. Be prepared to field a lot of detailed questions and don’t be surprised if it seems like they already know you and your company – they will probably research you and your business before meeting. They care about thoroughly vetting and understanding the options available to them and won’t jump the gun on a decision. They are more logical and cautious than any other personality type — but once they make a decision, they won’t reverse it unless some new data becomes available.

In summary...

Driven by technology changes, post-pandemic cultural factors and the macro-economic climate the requirements, challenges, and expectation for leaders have changed massively over the last few years.

These new trends will quickly become non-negotiable leadership essentials, so to actively thrive in this new era of leadership, we believe it’s crucial to embrace these trends, adapt, and continually refine your leadership style.  

At Greenbank, we are proud to be working with clients who are at the forefront of this new approach to leadership and in return are continuously developing our own approach to development programmes – both in terms of content and delivery. 

We would be delighted to share these evolving thoughts with you and understand more about your perspective on the leadership challenged you are facing!

About Greenbank

Greenbank are an innovative, ‘boutique’ consultancy delivering completely tailored leadership, negotiation and sales development programmes to clients ranging from top 5 global firms to tech start-ups.

We are now delighted to be running truly blended programmes, which make the most of both virtual platforms and interactive face-to-face workshops, to deliver motivational, cost-effective development.

We also have our own industry-leading, multi-lingual, 360° assessment platform, Navigator360 which provides our clients and other training providers with a completely flexible approach to gathering powerful confidential feedback.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your own sales or leadership teams, then we would be delighted to have a relaxed conversation – please contact Ian Hirst or (+44) 7812 074359.