Strategy & LeadershipHRD Thought Leaders on leadership in 2020

HRD Thought Leaders on leadership in 2020

Gathering perspectives on one of the most pressing issues faced by leaders this year.

In this special end-of-year series, our panel of renowned HR experts and influencers dissect some of the most pressing issues brought to light by recent events. In this edition, leadership in 2020 goes under the microscope.


2020 has been a revolutionary year for HR. From strategic overhauls to technological transformation, additional visibility plus new demands for support, leaders in every sector have experienced significant change, with progress only set to continue in the time ahead.

That said, not every leader has had an identical experience; regional differences, organizational culture and employee needs are all variable factors, meaning that each leader essentially has a tailored set of challenges and opportunities to respond to.

To that end, learning from peers, picking up actionable tips and discovering first-hand experiences are vital to refining strategies for 2021.

Jill Christensen

Employee engagement expert and best-selling author – @JillSpeaker

There is a major lack of leadership in our world today. Not only in business, but in every sector, including government, education, and beyond. A great place to start?

It’s everyone’s responsibility to know their strengths and development areas, and commit to being a better leader tomorrow than you were today. If you don’t lead people at work, your newfound skills will still make a difference, be it in your neighbourhood, family, church, community or the world.

Debra Corey

Author, speaker and employee engagement expert – @DebraCoreyRebel

Another area of focus throughout the year has been our leaders, with organizations recognizing that their role has become even more critical than in the past. They have truly become a lifeline to their employees, with organizations focussing on upskilling them in order to better understand and support a more remote workforce with a wider range of needs and challenges.

Whether it’s leading with more empathy and compassion, communicating in a more meaningful and effective way, listening and recognizing more, leaders have stepped up to take on this important challenge. Going forward, I believe that companies will continue to evolve the role of leaders to meet these changing needs, which will ultimately translate into how we hire, promote, train and reward leaders in the future.

Janine Dennis

Chief Innovation Officer, Talent Think Innovations – @MzJanineNicole

What's Hot

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Strategy & Leadership Establishing an Organization Guidance System

1y Dave Ulrich

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Alan Todd break down Organization Guidance Systems - what they are, and why they are essential to HR's role in busines...

View article
2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

Strategy & Leadership 2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

1y Michael Hocking

2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of...

Dave Ulrich, Jill Christensen, Jon Ingham, Katrina Collier and more HRD Thought Leaders predict the trials and transformations that will face the work...

View article
HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

HRD Summit UK HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

1y Joe Talora

HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

With the HRD Summit 2020 fast approaching, HRD Connect takes a look at what to expect at this year’s landmark event. View article

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

HRD Live Podcasts Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

1y Michael Hocking

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real...

In this week's HRD Live Podcast, Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage, sat down Michael Hocking, Editor, HRD Connect, to discuss Sage's mammoth c...

View article
HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

Engagement HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

1y Michael Hocking

HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at the top 10 culture and engagement articles, podcasts and interviews of the year. View article

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Learning & Development Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

1y Jill Christensen

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Jill Christensen, Employee Engagement Expert, Best-Selling Author and HRD Thought Leader, breaks down the two most important skills in the workplace, ...

View article

Leaders are typically in the hot seat, but it is my belief that 2020 exacerbated that fact. The true test of a leader is hardly anything we have spent a lot of time speaking about in the last decade as it pertains to leadership. It turns out a successful leader in the 20’s has to be someone who is dedicated to being of service to their employees.

They have to be able to handle crisis with grace, while extending grace when their people may not feel or be at their best. Measuring the efficiency and overall performance of leadership during times of relative ease doesn’t illuminate a person’s resilience to weather more difficult times. It would seem we are in for some turbulent times during this decade.

Organizations will have to evaluate their current leadership to decide whether the skillsets they currently have at the leadership level have the ability to sustain them and their employees over the next 9 years. It will be important to reevaluate what makes for a good leader and ensure that those values are front and center from recruitment through any training and development you deploy. Developing soft skills within your leaders could be a game-changer in improving and sustaining harmonious employee-employer dynamics.

Chuck Heaton

People & culture expert and senior HR consultant

2020 has been one of the greatest global leadership tests for business since the 2008 financial crisis. For the first time since World War II, the globe has been consumed by a crisis that has impacted every corner of the earth, disrupted global commerce, and had a huge impact on personal health. My mantra for 2020 was “be prepared to be unprepared.

Companies with strong leaders who are adaptive and innovative have found a path to survive and even thrive in this environment. Companies with poor leadership have struggled, declined and in some cases ceased to exist. 2021 will continue to require strong leadership to navigate the continued uncertainty driven by the course of the pandemic.

Another take on leadership is that 2020 has thrust HR leadership to the forefront unlike ever before in business. Executive leadership has looked to HR for a wide range of guidance regarding pandemic issues, such as remote working policies, COVID exposure and return to work, communications, organizational structure, technology upskilling, culture and employee engagement. I believe 2021 will see a transition in HR leadership in companies where that leadership was not up to the level needed in the pandemic.

Jon Ingham

Author and consultant – @JonIngham

In my HRD Summit Co:lab in February 2020, I suggested that organizations need to build on existing functional leadership approaches with more focus on leading teams, communities and networks. In 2021, it will leading distributed networks which will be most important. Building business and organization strategies that will take us out of and beyond the pandemic will require different approaches from the ones we’re used before.

And this innovation will depend on connecting people from all over our organizations to share insights, perspectives and ideas for the future. Unfortunately, it is these more discretionary, distributed, weak tie connections that have suffered most during 2020. HR and other business leaders urgently need to put in place new mechanisms and switch to new behaviors which will make up for the fact that people have not been bumping into each other in the corridors, hanging out at the water cooler, or gossiping over lunch.

Leaders now need to focus on brokering these connections, developing new relationships and facilitating the meaningful conversations that will drive the required transformations in our businesses.

Terence Mauri

Global disruption thinker, author and speaker – @TerenceMauri

The pandemic turned our leadership models upside down. It forced HR and business leaders to rethink the nature of work, the workplace and the workforce. In many ways the pandemic was an accelerant for change for trust, ethics and transparency and has given leaders a unique opportunity to not just return to normal, but reimagine relevancy.

Stuart Crainer, co-founder at Thinkers50, the global ranking authority of top management thinkers in the world says: “The focus of leadership over recent years has been on the impact of AI, Big Data and other technologies on the practice of leadership. How can and should leaders utilize technology? Where does technology leave traditional core leadership skills such as judgement?

The pandemic has changed the emphasis. The leadership agenda over 2021 and beyond will focus on people as never before. Leaders will have to figure their way through a complex array of issues — more people working remotely, fast changing and often declining markets, uncertainties piled on uncertainties. Listening, empathy and emotional intelligence will need to be to the fore for leaders in the post-Covid era. For many these will be new and sometimes impossible skills, but they are and will remain critical.”

The key takeaway: To win next year and beyond, leaders must always be in a perpetual state of beta learning, unlearning and re-learning. Now is not the time to adopt a ‘wait and see’ strategy. As agents of change, it’s time for leaders to rip up the rulebook on ‘leadership as usual’ and move beyond disruption: human-led, tech-enabled; intentionally diverse; purpose-driven (not purpose ‘washing’); operationally nimble and built for speed.

Subscribe to HRD Connect for daily updates on the future of work, including thought leadership, video interviews, the HRD Live Podcast and more.

Comments are closed.

What's Hot

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Strategy & Leadership Establishing an Organization Guidance System

1y Dave Ulrich

Establishing an Organization Guidance System

Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Alan Todd break down Organization Guidance Systems - what they are, and why they are essential to HR's role in busines...

View article
2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

Strategy & Leadership 2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of the year to come

1y Michael Hocking

2020: HRD Thought Leaders on the biggest trends of...

Dave Ulrich, Jill Christensen, Jon Ingham, Katrina Collier and more HRD Thought Leaders predict the trials and transformations that will face the work...

View article
HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

HRD Summit UK HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

1y Joe Talora

HRD Summit UK 2020 - Sneak Peek

With the HRD Summit 2020 fast approaching, HRD Connect takes a look at what to expect at this year’s landmark event. View article

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

HRD Live Podcasts Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real cultural transformation

1y Michael Hocking

Amanda Cusdin, Sage: The Big Conversation and real...

In this week's HRD Live Podcast, Amanda Cusdin, Chief People Officer, Sage, sat down Michael Hocking, Editor, HRD Connect, to discuss Sage's mammoth c...

View article
HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

Engagement HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

1y Michael Hocking

HRD Best of 2019: Culture and Engagement

As 2019 comes to a close, we look back at the top 10 culture and engagement articles, podcasts and interviews of the year. View article

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Learning & Development Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

1y Jill Christensen

Do You Possess the Top Two Most In-Demand Skills?

Jill Christensen, Employee Engagement Expert, Best-Selling Author and HRD Thought Leader, breaks down the two most important skills in the workplace, ...

View article