10 Leadership Principles for 2020

As we enter the new decade and year with a more fragile humanity than in the preceding years, there is a sense of concern and lack of clarity of what is in store for all of us
10 Leadership Principles for 2020
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Entrepreneur, Advisor, Author, Executive Coach, Partner at EdpowerU
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If the first week of 2020 is anything to go by, we are in for a decade predicated on uncertainty and unpredictability—economic, political, climate and technology. As we enter the new decade and year with a more fragile humanity than in the preceding years, there is a sense of concern and lack of clarity of what is in store for all of us.

Corporates and leadership have found themselves constantly firefighting to hold on to what they know and understand, as they try to make sense of the current environment and provision for the terrain that lies ahead. Multi-generational conflicts, people challenges, and a growing need to manage increasing sensitivity and varied sensibilities, in addition to external challenges, have added a new layer to the requirement to evolve.

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said the ‘only constant in life is change’, however, in the exponential era, as Mukesh Ambani defines it, we are governed by unprecedented amounts of change, which appears to be overwhelming and debilitating.

With the current state of flux, in my role as a leadership coach, I find myself constantly asked by organizations and leaders on what they need to do to emerge safely on the other side of this uncertainty.

A few years ago, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Future of Work Skills for 2020 report identified 10 key skills for 2020 including emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility, critical thinking, people management, creativity, critical thinking decision making, service orientation and negotiation. Korn Ferry, in their leadership research, introduced the concept of a self-disruptive leader through following an ADAPT (accelerate, drive, anticipate, partner and trust) framework. 

From concepts such as inside out leadership, to the agile and infinite leader, to building EQ and more, management theorists have spent the last many years trying to equip professionals with the skills needed to steer this constantly disrupted and evolving world.

A few constant themes that we see emerge as key leadership principles in a volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) world are as follows.

Managing ‘yourself’ is important

In all our leadership development programmes, we begin with a greater understanding of the self to navigate any change. To lead successfully, the first step is to develop a greater understanding of yourself and greater authenticity to assess your own strengths and shortcomings. Self-awareness for self-regulation is now essential to ensure that you manage better, adapt more fluidly and develop resilience.

Anticipate quickly

During my years at Columbia Business School, they emphasized that the leadership mindset of today is moving away from precision and being slow, to being fast and roughly right. In a decade laden with disruption and constant change, making decisions on the go is a key leadership skill. As I say to my ‘coachees’, your biggest quality of perfection can be your saboteur.

Communicate and communicate again

As leadership becomes more inclusive in its approach, getting stakeholders on board a vision is the first step to making it successful. While this may seem simple enough, communicating and being able to provide the necessary clarity to get the buy in is more often than not overlooked. In our multi-device world, there are many mediums that leaders can find to get their message out.

Teamwork and partnerships

To quote some of Korn Ferry’s research, instead of always looking to build in-house capabilities bringing together resources, tapping into the gig economy, building successful partnerships and an ecosystem will be far more pertinent in a disruptive world.

Be People Centric

Motivating people, inculcating a positive mindset, being sensitive, non-judgmental and taking a human-centric approach are all key EQ traits. Be authentic yet empathetic.

Keeping learning

Learning how to learn was a key skill described by Forbes in their August 2018 to staying relevant in the exponential era. Upgrading, skilling and re-skilling ourselves is imperative to stay on top of things in an evolving world.

Build meaningful relationships

Trust, commitment, developing networking, enhancing individuals and showcasing a people-centric approach, are all key components to building meaningful relationships in the workplace.

Navigate difficult conversations

Having challenging conversations is a part of any leaders’ role and successfully navigating these situations with the right ‘phrasing’, developing the intellect, building a coat of sensitivity, being emotionally agile and a dose of human centricity will go a long way.

Qubit thinking

Much like quantum computing, multi-dimensional thinking and cognitive flexibility in multi-device world driven by change are now key skillsets for all leaders to develop. Welcoming multiple perspectives is also equally essential.

Living your life’s purpose

Finding your inner purpose will unlock a new meaning to your life, your work and your leadership outlook. Inner fulfillment is key to long-term workplace success. It is incumbent on a leader to encourage this in themselves and others.


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