How Can Leaders Prepare for What’s Ahead in 2017?

As 2017 got underway, a group of passionate leadership development specialists gathered to reflect back on 2016 and think ahead to 2017. Here is a summary of what the leaders, coaches, trainers, instructional designers, and consultants who make up the Association for Talent Development’s Leadership Development Community of Practice predict for leadership in 2017.

A New World Order

The word that best describes 2017 is uncertain. The U.S. begins the year by inaugurating a new President, and countries around the world face significant crises and change—refugees, immigration, voter referenda…. The implications of this new world order for leaders include:

  • Leaders will need to know how to deal with greater uncertainty and ambiguity, as they lead large-scale change. On top of larger challenges, reduced resources mean leaders will have to do more with less.
  • Leaders will need to be able to address fear and uncertainty as it permeates society, and guide people toward positive action.
  • Competencies that will be important in this new world order include flexibility, resilience, agility, change management, innovation, developing others, and strategic thinking.
  • Leaders may be evaluated more on their capabilities related to employee engagement and agility in the face of continuous change, as opposed to their business acumen.
  • New technology such as artificial intelligence and automation could completely change how people work—and how leaders direct that work.

Guiding Culture Change

Perhaps the single biggest impact that a leader can have on an organization is in guiding its culture. Areas where leaders can drive culture include:

  • Diversity: Creating a more inclusive environment. For example, learning to speak the language of each target audience and using their words to target your message to their needs and interests.
  • Supporting different types of leaders: In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, how can we best cultivate and support all types of leaders, for example, women, through tailored approaches?
  • Creating a supportive work environment: In today’s always-on, information-overload environment, people are overwhelmed. Budgets are cut but the mission remains the same. People are told to do more with less, without any concrete approaches for doing so. Leaders have an opportunity to support effective performance by creating clarity and establishing working parameters that lead to success, instead of overwhelm.

Leadership Development for Organizational Impact

When times get tough, training and leadership development are typically the first things to be cut. However, it is precisely at these times of challenge that leadership is most needed and leaders need to augment their skills and acquire new ones. Leaders need to invest in their own development and that of their people, as an integral part of organizational operations. Some optimal ways for leaders to develop their own, and their organizations’, capabilities include:

  • Focusing on practical application. Leaders need to go beyond comprehending and discussing the issues to implement practical solutions by applying concrete actions and tools. It is up to them to look for—and create—learning opportunities to practice and get feedback on new concepts and skills.(Note: a great source of leadership tools is MindTools.)
  • Integrating the learning into the work. One way that leaders can emphasize practical application is to look for opportunities to integrate learning into the work. They can help their people to: 1) Identify a learning need, 2) Find available resources to learn, and 3) Apply what they’ve learned to their work. By using this approach themselves, leaders can model best practices, while developing their own capabilities.
  • Leveraging the expertise that exists within the organization. Leaders can harness the expertise within their organizations through Communities of Practice that encourage knowledge sharing and knowledge management. In addition, they should identify and support champions who can model and propagate best practices across the organization and guide others.

Other Predictions

It’s the time of year for predictions, and articles like this abound online. If you’re hungry for more predictions or interested in some other perspectives, check out these links:

What are you expecting for 2017? How are you preparing? Please add your predictions in the comments.

Claudia Escribano is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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