5 key leadership skills for the future | HR blog

Published on December 14, 2021 by Gemma Dale
    Staff management · SME

What are the key leadership skills that business leaders should be developing to futureproof their organisation? Business consultant and lecturer Gemma Dale explores 5 key skills all leaders can develop to stay ahead of the curve.

‘The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again’. This quote from Justin Trudeau in 2018 should resonate with every business leader. We are living through a period of significant disruption as a result of the global pandemic; even without taking this into account, there are many other forces reshaping the world of work now and in the near future.

Trends like globalisation, shifting workplace demographics, and the unprecedented speed of breakthroughs in technology are just some of the issues today’s leaders need to contend with. Overlay how COVID-19 has accelerated other trends like remote working, and it’s clear that leaders need to make sure their skills are future ready – no one can afford to be complacent.

5 leadership skills for the future


No matter your leadership style, here are five leadership skills that every leader and people manager needs if they want to ensure continued success into the future:

1. Coaching

Coaching is based on the idea that most individuals will have the solutions to their own challenges, and the leader who takes a coaching approach can help them to find these solutions by encouraging reflection and thinking. Leaders don’t necessarily need to be qualified coaches to use coaching skills in their leadership practice. They simply need to understand the principles and learn some key techniques. Coaching provides autonomy and choice – supporting motivation and engagement.

2. Digital literacy

The fourth industrial revolution is well underway – a digital revolution. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, the internet of things, 3D printing – all of these technologies are already around us. The World Economic Forum says that we are on the brink of a technological revolution unlike anything that we have ever experienced before, and that it will fundamentally change how we live and work. No organisation will untouched. Every leader will need to have digital literacy in order to understand how to maximise these new technologies for their own organisation.

3. Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is usually described as the ability to be able to perceive, understand, and manage your own emotions. Leaders with high EI are good at managing relationships and showing empathy. Whilst technology will inevitably play a significant role in the future of work, there are some things that tech can’t do – yet, at least – and emotional intelligence falls into that category.

4. Agility

The global pandemic has delivered many lessons for organisations everywhere; many had to respond fast to survive at all, innovating to find new ways of operating or introducing new services or products. In a workplace context, agility is the ability to adapt and flex, to make quick decisions, and to be comfortable with change. It’s also about being open minded and ready to try new things. We all know what happens to organisations who cannot adapt – leaders need to ensure that they do not suffer the same fate by working on their personal agility.

5. Resilience

Resilience is typically described as the ability to respond well to pressure or to ‘bounce back’ after setbacks. Every leadership role, by its very nature, will include the need to deal with challenges. Coupled with this radically changing environment, the need for leaders to be resilient has perhaps never been greater. It was certainly a requirement for leading during COVID-19.

Along with each of these specific skills is a requirement for leaders to be future focused: to scan the horizon, to spot trends, and to identify the potential ways that their services, products, or ways of working may be disrupted around them.

Building your leadership skills

Building your leadership skills

The good news for leaders is that all these skills can be learned or developed. Even if these skills or character traits do not come naturally, good leaders with the determination to develop themselves can work to ensure they have these leadership skills for the future.

If you are a leader, try a few of these simple techniques:

Step outside your comfort zone

Trying new things can help to boost confidence, stimulate your creativity, and aid personal growth. Leaders who want to succeed in the future should commit to regular learning.

Practice self-care

Taking exercise, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and ensuring adequate rest and recovery from work all boost resilience. Prioritising wellbeing can help leaders to be at the top of their game.

New call-to-action

Embrace technology

Build time into your diary to learn how to be a skilled user of relevant technologies. Remember that technology is constantly evolving, so you will need to commit to keeping your skills up to date.

Get yourself a coach

A good coach will help challenge your thinking, create space for reflection, and boost work performance. Every leader can benefit from some regular coaching.

Read and listen widely

Keep up to date with emerging trends and new thinking. Take the time to engage with books, blogs, webinars, and podcasts. Follow thought leaders and business thinkers. This can help you to keep one step ahead of the changes to come.

The future is notoriously difficult to predict with any real accuracy. A glance at any dated science fiction film will tell you that we have got it wrong more often than right. Although we cannot foresee every new trend and not every future disruption will be within our control, there is one thing of which leaders can always be sure: their own personal development is within their gift.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

What is transformational leadership in business?

How to develop leadership skills in employees

Understanding personality types in the workplace

Top HR Trends in 2023

Picture of Gemma Dale

Written by Gemma Dale

Gemma Dale is an experienced senior HR professional, CIPD Chartered Fellow, HEA Fellow, and a regular speaker and writer on a variety of HR topics. Gemma is the co-author of the book 'Flexible Working' published by Kogan Page in 2020. She is also a lecturer in the Business School at Liverpool John Moores University and runs her own business, The Work Consultancy.

free data migration
unlimited free support
3 month MOT