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5 Leadership lessons to take into a new year

If you type “business 2021” in Google, you’ll get a list of business trends, predictions and suggestions on what kind of business ventures to invest in that’ll yield the greatest success.

Not surprising when you think about the impact 2020 had on businesses from multi-national corporations to your local mom and pop shop. There were some hard lessons learned and some that have changed the way we approach business in 2021.

This year business will be a major theme because how can it not be? We saw some of the most successful businesses crumble within a year which had leaders questioning, how do we plan for an uncertain year with what we know now?

The changes that impacted businesses sparked a heightened sense of awareness around sustainability, innovation and financial resiliency to name a few.

Most organizations by now have likely finalized plans for the year but before we can truly make a dent in 2021, we need to ensure we’ve taken stock of some vital leadership lessons to take into this year and hopefully beyond.

Lessons we’ve learned from not only a challenging year in business but personally as well. If there was ever a time where the lines were blurred between business and personal, it was 2020!

I can’t imagine any personal reflection from a year like 2020 and the impact it’s had on you personally wouldn’t influence the way you approach business. Time will tell!

Some key leadership lessons to take into 2021: 

  1. Resiliency – If you didn’t hear the word resilient enough in 2020, you might have been overwhelmed with the noise of “wear a mask” or “wash your hands.” Resiliency was spoken about at large in 2020 and will continue to be a focus in 2021. As a leader, if there was a time to be resilient, it was certainly during a pandemic. To persevere and come out of some of the most challenging of circumstances, resiliency was the name of the game.

The lesson here is demonstrating resiliency in your leadership both professionally and personally, will prove to be something that needs to be exercised consistently. This balanced with healthy humility is what employees will want to see and will help you get through the uncertainty that lies ahead.

2. Well-being and Connection – The importance of connection was heightened in a year where we were told to social distance and stay home. Almost overnight, we went from coffee chats and watercooler moments to being separated and forced to re-create those seamlessly insignificant moments online. Connection with employees, peers and colleagues suddenly became hyper-focused and our well-being came into question. How do I continue to take care of my physical, mental and emotional health during a pandemic? How do I ensure my employees are engaged, safe and doing ok in a remote environment? 

The lesson here is well-being and connection were always important and yet it took a global crisis to show just how delicate we are as human beings. When a structure or daily routine we all take advantage of is taken away, you’re challenged to think of new ways to recreate the same experiences that once brought us joy. Our well-being should never be compromised and as a leader, being connected as an individual and being able to connect with your people should be a priority.

3. Communication – In a year where things changed by the day, at times perhaps by the hour, communication and transparency were heightened and will be vital in 2021. It’s no less important outside a crisis, however, we saw in a pandemic how critical communication was across the globe. In our very businesses, communication to employees, customers and our communities all held significance matter who you were talking to.

The lesson here is quite simple. Communicate often and with transparency and keep all your stakeholders (employees, customers and community at large) in the loop. During times where things are unclear or changing, no communication or news isn’t supportive and can create a sense of distrust.

4. Diversity & Inclusion – In the midst of a pandemic, we saw social movements that swept the globe and made waves on systemic issues like racism and social injustices. As a result, we saw organizations take lead to show their support in creating a more diverse and inclusive world through training yet these often are one and done.

For diversity and inclusion initiatives to be a part of your organization, ongoing and regular training needs to be invested in the long-term. All levels of an organization should be involved to increase awareness and be educated.

The lesson here is, don’t wait for a social movement to take place to serve as a stern reminder of an underlying issue that’s been a challenge for years. Take the lead and make this a long-term investment to create real change in your organization.

5. Agility – To think that the “office” was the only place to perform your job, a pandemic will prove otherwise. Agility was front and center with having both individuals and organizations exercising agile behaviours. The flexibility and adaptability that was demonstrated with minimal time to plan were certainly not on everyone’s wish list. It was proven that much can be accomplished in hybrid and remote work models. Marti Konstant, a Workforce Futurist who specializes in curing stagnation for individuals and organizations via workforce and career agility, says, “From an agile perspective, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.” 

The lesson here is there is still much to learn! Leaders have a great opportunity to continue to learn and develop trust in how agility can work for you in leading their organization with success in 2021 and beyond. 

These were just a few key leadership lessons I learned last year through clients and what we saw play out in the world. A year like 2020 may have been full of its challenges, yet it also offered wisdom we can use in how we lead both ourselves and others to greater heights.

What would you add? Is there an important lesson you learned as a leader in 2020 you’re taking into 2021? Let me know in the comments below!

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Lisa De Nicola

Lisa De Nicola is an Intuitive Leadership Coach and a Corporate Magic Maker dedicated to helping businesses bring out the essence of their biggest resource - their people. She partners with leaders to help them lead more authentically, bring meaning back to their business and be inspired by life. She brings 15 + years of experience working in the world of talent for multi-national, global organizations sharing knowledge, spiritual tools and practices and business insights to high achievers looking to transform the way they lead from the inside out.

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