5 Leadership Trends to Watch in 2013

The new year will bring new strategies for managing employees.

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Lindsay Olson
Think social media is the only trendy thing in the business world? Think again. Management techniques and leadership styles have trends too, and as experts crop up with new strategies for managing employees, these trends evolve. Andrew Graham, president and CEO of The Forum Corporation, a Boston-based learning organization, has some interesting predictions of leadership trends in 2013.

1. You must lead change. With unemployment rates bouncing up and down, and companies cutting pay increases and bonuses, constant volatility has become the new norm in the workplace. And that can make for an uncomfortable environment ... unless you manage it. Graham says Forum research points to three critical practices for leaders:

  • Build your context agility
  • Exercise judgment in action
  • Develop professional intelligence
  • Essentially, give your team confidence that change doesn't necessarily mean upheaval, and make decisions on a case-by-case basis, rather than applying blanket actions to every situation.

    2. Good managers will be hard to find. Because of that very change mentioned in No. 1, many qualified managers are turning to entrepreneurship rather than continuing to climb the corporate ladder. For companies, that means the search for good help will be difficult in 2013. "Don't expect to be able to hire fully capable managers from outside," Graham says. "Instead, grow your own: Hire promising talent early and invest in their training and retention. Look for emerging leaders and, again, invest in them."

    Make sure you've got an excellent training program and a clear-cut path for your staff to move into increasingly higher roles of responsibility. Not only will you cultivate great leaders, but you'll also reduce turnover.

    3. People-leadership skills will be more highly valued. Of all the skills and experience a manager gets on the job, the ability to lead people is ranking higher every year. According to the research and management firm Leadership IQ's "Talent Management in America and China," organizations with managers who use certain people-leadership skills tend to perform better in their industries. Companies that are leaders in their industries report much higher use of people-leadership practices than lower performing organizations.

    Companies that want to lead the pack on this should incorporate these four tenets in employee training:

    • Think like a leader
    • Coach a team
    • Get results through others
    • Engage people
    • 4. It will take a village. Whereas past leadership efforts have been all about the individual as a leader, in 2013 it will be about the collective efforts of a team. Because leaders are coming across new challenges, there isn't any history to base making an informed decision on, and leaders must look to their social networks, employees, and other leaders to make the best decision.

      Graham suggests leaders "create multilevel leadership development systems, and a) ensure consistency between the levels: consistent competencies, concepts, language, and themes; b) give each level a strong role in the programs for the next level down; c) be intentional about bringing together leaders from different business units, functions, and geographies for training and development opportunities."

      It's okay to show that you don't always have the answer. A good leader at the very least knows where to find that answer.

      5. Boot camp training is so 2012. In recent years, companies have taken a boot camp approach to training, trying to cram as much information as possible in the minds of employees in just a few hours. Graham says we're starting to see a backlash. "Learners have no desire to come to a training class in which they're forced to work at a breakneck pace all day, complete difficult assignments in the evening, and at the same time keep up with all their regular work."

      He says the trend we'll see next year involves giving learners a break. Learning programs can be practical and challenging, but should also provide the opportunity to bond with a team as well as have a bit of surprise and adventure in it.

      Whatever the trends we see in leadership in 2013, one thing remains the same: a good leader can build trust with his team, increase productivity and help an organization succeed.

      Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.