This year we see both exciting opportunities and tough challenges for leaders. From a multitude of sectors, leaders understand that they need to build great teams, and listen with intent to respond and adapt successfully to this ever-changing environment.
There is a renewed sense of forward momentum in the year ahead, driven by a genuine desire to grow, enable and collaborate. Yet leaders are challenged by our tough economy, global instability, performance pressures and constantly changing expectations of workplace, careers and leadership.
Here we’ve captured some of our key observations and insights on some key leadership priorities in 2023.
- It remains a talent war. Retaining and nurturing talent continues to be a key focus for leaders and those organisations that are creating a long-term employee value proposition are gaining the engagement and retention advantage. That involves motivators beyond remuneration and offering skill development, career advancement, flexibility and thriving, values-driven cultures. As this HBR article states, “Companies should …balance the material offerings with opportunities to grow, connection and community, and meaning and purpose.” Additionally, factors such as the company’s carbon footprint, whether they only purchase sustainably sourced materials or provide volunteer options are all building loyalty.
- Compassionate leadership. Strong results, quality decision making and role proficiency remain crucial for leader performance, particularly in a tough economy. However, the best leaders in current times also have the ability to lead self, communicate effectively, lead with empathy, be curious and enable others. Effectiveness can also be measured by psychological safety, fostering a safe space to speak up candidly and discuss challenges and failures without risk. The list is long and leaders need good people with different perspectives around them to build self-understanding, test ideas and support their growth and success.
- Look after the middle. Research is showing managers in the middle are some of the most exhausted and stressed in the workforce. Managing up to a strong growth agenda or demanding leadership while driving performance and wellbeing of direct reports can be a tough gig. Looking after managers in the messy middle who are responsible for team KPIs, new hybrid arrangements, managing poor behaviours and building connection remotely will reap rewards as they are champions of culture, productivity and a highly engaged workforce.
- Wellbeing focus is fundamental. Managing and supporting employee mental health and wellbeing, managing burn out, overwhelm and stress levels is now an acknowledged business imperative. Leaders are embracing discussions around how to prevent burnout, support mental health and learn positive healthy habits for themselves and organisations through flexible working, incentive reviews, culture changes and health policy initiatives.
- Leadership diversity & inclusion. Recognising there is important work to be done to make workplaces more inclusive and equitable, D&I efforts must be top of mind for business success. In gender diversity, women now represent 51% of the workforce, and we’ve seeing positive representation changes in some places like parliament however the stats remain glacial in shifting gender diversity in certain industries and at the influential board and C-suite levels. Business retention and performance results will be measured on the ability to retain and promote talent from cultural and gender diverse backgrounds, enable disability employment opportunities and foster equitable work environments. Initiatives must address the barriers that impede progression and allow for diversity at the key decision making levels.
- Trust and productivity. The ability to spend time on the agreed priorities, have quality engagements, deliver outcomes and effectively collaborate are key productivity metrics for hybrid workers. For many organisations, they replace the traditional measures including tasks completed, total hours worked and physical presence in offices. Building trust between leaders, their teams and stakeholder groups is central to driving this high performance behaviour, accountability and commercial goals.
- AI’s growth. Leaders are following the exponential learning curve of AI’s impact and opportunities on the workplace. In the age of ChatGPT and assistive technology there seems an acceleration of discussion anticipating what changes in customer behaviours and workforce skills will shape the future of the organisation. It may augment every function of work as employees from marketing to support to finance to design will have AI automation tools to efficiently complete daily tasks while the human role will be to build on, enhance, apply judgment, insight and intuition.
- Relationships matter. Effective leaders build strategic and trusted relationships to gain and share different perspectives, engage and motivate others and achieve better outcomes. In the new hybrid and remote working life, people need to remain thoughtful and proactive in their efforts to connect, build relationships and improve touch points across teams and industry. Workspaces need to be energising, with opportunities for quality interaction and connection regardless of location. Fostering strategies such as structured mentoring programs and less formal, yet intentional interactions will leverage the power of networks and relationships in building knowledge and accelerating growth.