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6 Skills for Leading in 2021

I recently had a meeting with a woman who was interviewing me for a mentorship programme I was applying for. After an hour of discussion and coffee she asked me if there was anything I would like to share about leadership. I responded with "I love leadership. I love working in a team and leading the growth of both the people and the organisation, however leadership has changed. More is required of the 2021 leader...More heart, more empathy and more grit, way more grit."

I believe that leadership in 2021 and beyond requires a honing of skills and a style of leadership quite different to anything we've done in the past.

Here is what I believe 2021 leaders need to hone and fine tune as we move forward.

Well-Being in the Workplace

Sure, workplace well-being is not a new concept, however the focus on well-being at work has accelerated in the past 12 months. With increased anxiety, some people are requiring extra support, more time off work than usual and the need for someone to 'hold space' for them. Having a long term, sustainable well-being strategy in our organisations is crucial to ensuring our people feel valued. Check out my 12 Well Being Ideas at Work article for some ideas.

Gate Keeping

Now more than ever, leadership is about making decisions about what to take on and what to say 'sayonara' to. Questioning the purpose of new initiatives and asking what could we give up to bring on something new, is critical. As leaders we need to be mindful of the pressure we put on our staff in terms of workload, timelines and deadlines.

Flexibility and Adaptability

The need to change systems and approaches at the last minute has put us all to the test. Leaders especially, have had to adapt at lightening speed and roll changes out quickly with efficiency and confidence. The first lockdown was a test to the existing systems in the organisation and the ability to make it work from home, the second lockdown was a testimony to the reviews, changes and tweaks made from the first round. By the third and fourth lockdown, there was an expectation that we would nail it. There were no excuses for not making it work better than before. The ability for people to be flexible and adapt to new approaches has been evident globally.


After all said and done, leadership is about the people, the people, the people. Our relationships with our people is the cornerstone to the success of any organisation. More than ever before, teamwork and collaboration has been paramount . Supporting each other has been key to the success of our workplaces functioning at full capacity, both online and offline.

The ability to connect with people has become a highly sought after currency.

Appreciating and Praising

I believe that valuing, appreciating and praising people genuinely for the work they do is the most powerful tool in a leaders toolbox. According to Stone & Heen (2015) appreciation is fundamentally about relationship and human connection. At a literal level it says, "thanks." But appreciation also conveys, "I see you," "I know how hard you've been working," and "You matter to me." They go on to say that when people complain that they don't get enough feedback at work, they often mean that they wonder whether anyone notices or cares how hard they're working. Appreciating people for the work that they do is priority for any leader.

The Ability to Take Care of Ourselves

I noticed my empathy muscles had became somewhat fatigued by the end of last year, the result of listening to other people and their concerns; health, finances or personal battles and leading an organisation through a global pandemic. Leaders have to be grounded in their own sense of self and know how to take care of themselves in order to take care of others. To be the empathetic and compassionate leaders that we need to be, we require a certain level of health and overall wellbeing. We need to know when to switch off, but more importantly, know how to switch off.

#leadership #leadsmartwithheart

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