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Who will lead us? A look at the new breed of leadership

By Amanda Rose

In times of crisis, we look to strong leadership to get us through. The previous year has been nothing short of a disaster for many of us, and it has pushed several businesses into unprecedented territories. We hung on to words such as ‘adapt’ and ‘pivot’ to buoy us as we weathered the storm.

Some have clung to the life raft, barely holding on, while others have managed to become more than competent swimmers, easing into their newfound strokes in the 2020 tidal pool. There has been no denying, though, that we have had to reshape the way we do business. We needed to take stock of who we are as leaders and how the changes we have seen recently will continue to manifest beyond 2021.

With that being said, I do believe that in 2021 we will not only see a new breed of leader come out of the ashes of 2020, but we will be demanding all our leaders to possess the six essential qualities that make not just a good leader, but a great one.

These will be:

1. A confident leader

The leader with the “can do” attitude. These leaders exude confidence, communicate effectively and work through planning with their teams’ input. More so now than ever, people will be hired based on their leadership potential, using their expertise and knowledge to guide those with whom they work with confidence, rather than recruiting those who may find the boots a little too big to fill. The certainty that a confident leader provides is vital during times of change and will promote trust and productivity, which is appealing to employers and employees alike.

2. An adaptable leader

The leader who knows it’s time to adapt or possibly perish. Leaders who are flexible in their approach will thrive in our new working environment. As we engage in more remote working arrangements and a hybrid workforce, adaptable leaders won’t see these new parameters as business restraints but rather look to embrace the changes and work with the new grain. These leaders see the societal and cultural shift in our working environment and know that adapting to the positive aspects of this will improve employee motivation and retention.

3. An empathetic leader 

The leader who is understanding. Last year has been full of employee stories and has required empathy that some leaders are just clearly lacking. For our Melbourne friends who endured an extended lockdown, empathy for those who tried to work and homeschool at the same time became paramount. This is about rapport and compassion. 2020 has taught us that we all need a little patience and understanding, especially in the workplace and is a great attribute we believe we will now see more of in 2021. An empathetic leader will be a truly competitive advantage as others revert back to getting it done at all costs rather than getting it done with understanding. 

4. A visionary leader 

The leader should innovate and inspire. Visionary leadership is looking beyond the current roadmap and working out how to navigate the path of least resistance in the future. In 2020, a leader with a vision would’ve been preparing for 2025. They’re the ones who’ve understood what it means to pivot and have prospered through their actions. They use their knowledge and foresight for future gain. Those who are visionary leaders build their greatness not just for themselves but also for their team and the greater good. A leader with vision can always see the big picture and the end goal even in the darkest times. These leaders aren’t worried about the short term pain but rather the long term gain. 

5. The focussed and frugal leader

The leader who provides clarity and cuts out the “noise”. This doesn’t necessarily mean the “heads down, bums up” approach to leadership but rather not easily distracted by what is happening around them, being insightful of what is in front of them. Focused leaders know that their stalwart approach is soothing and promotes productivity in their staff. These leaders can often be frugal in their approach, removing the bells and whistles for a clean, no-nonsense approach and capturing value through their leadership rather than their spending. In a post COVID environment where our economy still teeters gingerly on the edge of recession, these leaders are mindful in method and manner and are great examples of whose lead we should follow in 2021.

6. The irrepressible leader

The antifragile leader doesn’t just value uncertainty. They thrive in it. These are the leaders who cannot be kept down and stay on track no matter what comes their way, can think on their feet and manage everything thrown at them. They see adversity as an opportunity. They are the ones who look to the hard times and say, “I’ve got this”, and they mean it. All of us need a little reassurance every now and then, and the irrepressible leader delivers in spades.

The strongest leader in 2021 will encompass all of the above qualities. A stoic, positive visionary that will be in demand by boards globally, looking for a new breed of a well rounded, respected and competent individual who is ready for anything that comes their way. 


Amanda Rose is the founder of Small Business Women Australia, Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Advisory.

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