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Rethinking Your Leadership Approach in 2024

As we approach the new year, I have been reflecting on how the landscape has shifted dramatically over the past few years and what it means for how I will lead going forward. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated many existing trends while spurring new ones, fundamentally altering our perspectives on topics like remote work, well-being, and stakeholder capitalism. Simultaneously, issues around diversity, equity and inclusion have taken centerstage as society demands more socially conscious leadership. As a result, leading in 2024 will require adopting a very different mindset and set of skills than those that were previously valued.

Today I will outline how I plan to lead differently based on lessons learned from both research and experience over the past few disruptive years.

A Shift from Command and Control to Empowerment and Collaboration

A core paradigm shift that the pandemic era accelerated was moving away from traditional command-and-control styles of leadership towards more empowering and collaborative models. Research shows that authoritarian leadership breeds fear, threatens psychological safety and undermines creativity and innovation (Grant, 2013). But command-and-control remained the default approach for many leaders unaccustomed to operating virtually. Going forward, research suggests empowering leadership will be key. Empowering leaders share power, foster autonomy and decentralize decision making (Zhang & Bartol, 2010). They impart a sense of autonomy and confidence in followers while remaining available as a resource (Spreitzer, 1995).

Within my own organization, the pandemic forced us to adopt new collaborative workflows using technologies like collaborative documents and project management tools. It became clear very quickly that top-down directives were inefficient and disempowering for remote employees expected to operate independently. Going forward, I plan to decentralize decision making through self-organizing cross-functional teams and empower employees to solve problems autonomously through clear guidelines rather than micromanagement. Leaders will coach and advise, removing barriers, rather than dictating solutions. Continuous feedback loops and transparency around priorities and outcomes will replace the former pyramid structure and information silos.

Prioritizing Well-Being, Flexibility and Humane Leadership

The pandemic peeled back the facade of always-on, 24/7 work culture and demonstrated its unsustainability, both for organizations and individuals. It became impossible to ignore the importance of flex schedules, remote work and prioritizing well-being over presenteeism. Research shows companies that prioritize employee well-being see increases in retention, engagement and productivity (Gallup, 2017). But true flexibility requires humane, compassionate leadership that recognizes the whole human behind each employee.

Within my team, pandemic lockdowns blurred work-life boundaries and exerted immense mental health tolls, often disproportionately impacting women and caregivers. Moving forward, I plan to role model respect for personal lives and discourage a martyr mentality through clear boundaries on availability. Annual surveys and 1:1 check-ins will help identify issues proactively to facilitate healthier workstyles through accommodations as needed. I will promote work-life integration over presenteeism and encourage employees to recharge through vacation time, flex schedules and mental health days. Leaders will undergo training to identify signs of burnout early and respond compassionately through empathetic conversations focused on solutions rather than criticism.

Democratizing Decision Making through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

A reckoning on systemic biases and lack of representation in leadership also took place over the last few years, driven by social movements demanding more inclusive workplaces. Research shows diverse teams outperform homogeneous groups on measures of innovation, problem-solving and financial performance (Hunt, et al., 2015). But true inclusion requires democratizing decision making processes and dismantling existing power dynamics.

Within my own predominantly male leadership team, we realized a lack of diversity limited our perspectives, especially in traditionally "feminine" domains like wellness, caregiving and community. Moving forward, I plan to overhaul our recruitment processes, implement blind auditions for roles and provide anti-bias training. Quarterly inclusion surveys and employee resource groups will generate ideas to remove barriers. I will empower underrepresented employee networks and rotate leadership of cross-functional initiatives to seed diverse faces and voices throughout. Budgets and headcount for DEI efforts will increase substantially to demonstrate commitment through meaningful action over performative allyship.

Rethinking Performance Management for Growth, Feedback and Purpose

Annual performance reviews emerged as woefully inadequate for guiding continuous employee development and supporting thriving careers in today's dynamic environment. Research shows frequent feedback fosters learning and motivation while annual reviews favor recency bias and sandbag late-year performance (Goldsmith, 2007). The last few years also amplified employee demands for purpose-driven work aligned with their values. Forward-thinking companies will prioritize alignment of individual goals with organizational purpose.

In my organization, we piloted continuous check-ins, calibration sessions and career pathing to replace restrictive annual cycles and top-down feedback. Moving forward, I plan to institutionalize routine coaching conversations focused on growth rather than evaluation. Development plans will clearly link individual goals to our higher purpose to enhance meaning. Feedback will emphasize observation over conclusion and focus on behavior versus personality to encourage psychologically safe criticism. Calibration sessions across levels and domains will reduce bias and make assessments more holistic and future-oriented.

Rethinking Leadership Development for the 21st Century

To meet the demands of this new era, organizations must rethink current assumptions around leadership development. Traditional training programs centered competencies like public speaking or decision making that fail to address systemic obstacles to inclusion or lack relevance in virtual contexts. The pandemic also highlighted how isolated, individualist models focused on heroic leaders overlook the importance of collaborative relationships.

Within my own leadership development program, we aim to overhaul outdated assumptions. Going forward, I envision expanding offerings to cultivate empathetic, networked leadership through courses in subjects like anti-bias awareness, decentralized governance models and virtual community building techniques. Programs will bring together peers across levels, functions and backgrounds to form cross-pollinating networks and seed inclusive cultures from the top down. Leadership responsibilities will increase access to stretch assignments, mentoring and sponsorship to develop the next generation internally from diverse hiring pools. We will elevate coaching, advising and nurturing relationships within teams over programs idolizing solo stars.

Leading with Purpose, Empathy and Care

In 2024 and beyond, leadership will be defined far less by position or authority and far more by the relationships, purpose and impact one cultivates through humble, service-oriented leadership. This represents a fundamental shift from ego-driven leadership models rooted individual agency to collective,servant leadershipattuned to stakeholders' well-being. Research highlights that purpose and care, not charisma, sustain trust long-term in VUCA contexts (George, 2015; O'Toole, 1996).

Within my own approach, I will transition from symbolically leading "from the front" as a figurehead to empowering others as core leaders through advocacy, relationship-building and removing systemic barriers. I will role model vulnerability by openly sharing struggles, asking for feedback and admitting fallibility to cultivate psychological safety. My priorities as a leader will shift from reacting, controlling or taking credit individually to nurturing talent, championing diversity, building community and caring for stakeholders holistically through servant leadership. Overall success will be defined less by my authority and more through the thriving, equity and purposeful work our community collectively enables.


Leading in 2024 demands rethinking many outdated assumptions from the past. By prioritizing inclusion, well-being, empowerment and purpose over command-and-control models, annual reviews or training geared towards individual stars, we can cultivate more adaptive, resilient and just organizations prepared to navigate disruption. Going forward, I am committed to developing the skills, mindsets and relationships needed to lead differently through empathy, care, decentralization and championing diversity from the top down. Overall, we must redefine leadership itself as an act of service, relationship-building and community-care rather than a role or title to solve our industry's pressing challenges and thrive in the decades ahead.


  • George, B. (2015). Discover your true north. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Goldsmith, M. (2007). What got you here won’t get you there: How successful people become even more successful. New York, NY: Hyperion.

  • Grant, A. M. (2013). Give and take: A revolutionary approach to success. New York, NY: Viking.

  • Gallup. (2017). State of the American workplace. Gallup.

  • Hunt, V., Layton, D., & Prince, S. (2015, January). Why diversity matters. McKinsey & Company.

  • O'Toole, J. (1996). Leading change: The argument for values-based leadership. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

  • Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of management Journal, 38(5), 1442-1465.

  • Zhang, X., & Bartol, K. M. (2010). Linking empowering leadership and employee creativity: The influence of psychological empowerment, intrinsic motivation, and creative process engagement. Academy of management journal, 53(1), 107-128.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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