As leaders look for success in 2023, it is easy to see that it will be a year with both continuing and fresh challenges. The fallout from the pandemic has not cleared, inflation and rising interest rates are a concern, political battles look to escalate beyond their already intense levels, and the needs of the workforce will continue to evolve.
To pinpoint the largest concerns of leaders in 2023, Fast Company recently interviewed 12 CEOs (Mohan, 2022). Among their concerns were a) employee burnout and well-being, b) identifying opportunities in a sea of uncertainty, c) leading a remote workforce, and d) remaining connected to core customers. Research has identified several key leadership skills that have proven effective in overcoming these challenges.
Reducing employee burnout and promoting well-being. From a series of studies, researchers found employees flourished most in organizations that promoted workplace relationships in which employees had the opportunity to give and get resources from one another (Colbert, Bono, & Purvanova, 2016). Leaders who considered employee schedules and workplace structures (e.g., co-location), encouraged employee interactions, and provided task assistance were more effective in reducing employee stress and promoting employee mental, physical, and social well-being.
Identifying opportunities in a sea of uncertainty. An interesting study of successful entrepreneurs discovered some important insights into how these leaders discovered opportunities (Jhajharia & Sharma, 2022). It begins with two psychological perspectives: a) change readiness, and b) openness to changing their beliefs. In other words, identifying promising opportunities requires leaders who are prepared to see the world differently. Next, searching for opportunities requires an analytic style dependent on internal influence, experience, and knowledge. Identifying opportunities more often results from a careful, systematic, informed analysis rather than an ‘ah hah!’ moment.
Leading a remote workforce. The pandemic pushed remote work onto the main stage of work environments–and it appears poised to stay. A recently published study has identified 4 effective leadership practices when leading remote teams (Krehl & Büttgen, 2022). These include: (1) solving problems collaboratively and monitoring team progress, (2) creating space for socializing and teambuilding, (3) making the team feel supported and encouraging feedback, and (4) communicating to build a virtual culture of trust.
Remaining connected to core customers. Not surprisingly, research consistently finds prioritizing customer satisfaction is a crucial component of client relationship management and retention. A study of small businesses in the USA found that one of the most impactful resources in relation to customer experience, engagement, satisfaction, and retention was technological innovations (Hawkins & Hoon, 2020). Specifically, they found applying technology to relationship management enabled business leaders to track inquiries, address customer concerns, provide additional resources or services, and offer a better overall customer experience. Consequently, leaders must develop the technological skills to design and implement substantive retention strategies, centralize customer relationship management, demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction, and actively cultivate customer brand loyalty.
Clearly, the leadership skills listed above to do represent an exhaustive list. Rather, these are research-reinforced skills that have been successfully used to meet many of the challenges leaders will face in the coming year.
Colbert, A. E., Bono, J. E., & Purvanova, R. K. (2016). Flourishing via Workplace Relationships: Moving beyond Instrumental Support. Academy of Management Journal, 59(4), 1199–1223.
Hawkins, L., & Hoon, S. (2020). The Impact of Customer Retention Strategies and the Survival of Small Service-Based Businesses. IUP Journal of Marketing Management, 19(2), 7–34.
Jhajharia, G., & Sharma, G. (2022). An Exploration of the Correlation between Entrepreneurial Success and the Capacity of an Entrepreneur for Unique Opportunity Identification. ANWESH: International Journal of Management & Information Technology, 7(2), 33–39.
Krehl, E.-H., & Büttgen, M. (2022). Uncovering the complexities of remote leadership and the usage of digital tools during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative diary study. German Journal of Human Resource Management / Zeitschrift Für Personalforschung, 36(3), 325–352.