6 Business and Leadership Trends Shaping 2016: How Will you Adapt?

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Research reveals the forces driving today’s leadership trends in 2016 in businesses today and areas for leadership development that make sense to prioritize.

I’ve made it a practice to pay attention to the articles and research on trends in leadership and business that gets published at the start of a new year.  Below is the summary of what I have found so far for 2016.  I’ve been struck by some very similar themes that are emerging from current research about the forces driving leadership in businesses today.  See what you think. What themes do you see in the trends shared from these different sources, and should you be following these trends too?


  1. In this Harvard Business Review article, the case for being collaborative: “Global virtual teams are the norm, not the exception. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, videoconferencing, and a host of other technologies have put connectivity on steroids and enabled new forms of collaboration that would have been impossible a short while ago.  Many executives realize that they need a new playbook for this hyper-connected environment. Those who climbed the corporate ladder in silos while using a “command and control” style can have a difficult time adjusting to the new realities. Conversely, managers who try to lead by consensus can quickly see decision making and execution grind to a halt. Crafting the right leadership style isn’t easy.”
  2. In this article from Industry Week, the case for being humble: “Larger-than-life egos are fast becoming liabilities, not the signs of strength and leadership they once were. Indeed, in what may first appear to be a paradox, Professor Edward Hess says that ego’s mortal enemy—humility—is one of the traits most likely to guarantee success in the 21st century workplace.

“In the tech tsunami of the next few decades, robots and smart machines are projected to take over more than half of U.S. jobs,” says Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.  “The jobs that will still be ‘safe’ involve higher-order cognitive and emotional skills that technology can’t replicate, like critical thinking, innovation, creativity, and emotionally engaging with other humans,” he explains. “All of those skills have one thing in common: They are enabled by humility.”

  1. In this article from McKinsey, they describe how they “surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. What they found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness (exhibit).”  The top behaviors were:  Solve problems effectively.  Seek different perspectives.  Operate with strong results orientation.  Be supportive.
  2. In this article from Forbes, that because millennials are becoming the largest generation in the workplace, their research “predicts a significant qualitative change in management style. As baby boomers retire and younger employees fill supervisory roles, the nature of leadership will evolve. Look for management best practices to swing towards more collaborative and less hierarchical. As old guard command-and-control management diminishes, a challenge for the new guard will be to maintain solid results and accountability – not always the easiest task with a gentler collaborative touch.”
  3. In a recent review of research conducted by the developer of several assessments I useManagement Research Group, described in a blog post on Executive Successor Development, their extensive research shows these changes in leadership:
    • An increase in collective leadership. There has been a growth in leaders not needing to have all the answers themselves to finding answers together.  The leadership behavior they refer to as “Self”, which is a reliance on one’s own decision making, has gone down dramatically.
    • A rise in Emotional Intelligence. There are some indications for a growing appreciation of softer skills at senior levels.  This is evidenced by lower dominance and higher empathy.
    • An increase in strategic leadership for mid and senior level leaders suggesting a growing importance of strategic ability at all levels. This means putting more focus on planning in multiple time frames, systemic thinking, anticipating intended and unintended consequences, and anticipating the ripple effect of our decisions.
  4. The CEB shared their trends for Human Resources professionals for 2016. HR leaders identified as their key priorities in 2016:
  • Analytic Transformation of Talent
  • The Collaborative Enterprise
  • Workforce of the Future
  • Next Generational Functional Effectiveness


My experience shows that leadership requirements should be based on the business situation not just trends.  I also believe that we should also consider trends and what they may mean for ourselves so that we are not operating in a vacuum.  After all, strategic leadership is a lot about forward thinking and anticipating, aspects of strategic leadership which is a competency that has been on top of the list of success criteria for leaders for years already.

This research confirms the trends I see playing out in real businesses today and I think points to some core leadership behaviors that are very relevant to most companies.  For leaders investing in their own development and that of their next generation of leaders, prioritizing these leadership areas are a good place to start.

Here are some ideas for how to start investing in yourself and your next generation.

Are you stepping into a new leadership role and you want to make sure you’re developing the skills you need to avoid the sink-or-swim? Download this free expert guide to leadership transitions and make sure you’re swimming for years to come!

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