The 3 Key Leadership Competencies for 2022
Shortly after the pandemic emerged in early 2020, HRSG CEO Suzanne Simpson wrote about the key leadership competencies that organizational leaders would need to navigate the crisis. These competencies, which included "inspiring others," "emotional intelligence," and "leading change," were hand-picked to help leaders address to cultural, economic, and operational upheaval that the pandemic created.
Nearly two years later, COVID continues to impact the workplace, but other trends are also changing the way employees work—and who they choose to work for. In this post, we share the three key leadership competencies that leaders need to cultivate as they prepare for a new year and new challenges ahead.
2022 Leadership Competency #1: Embracing Diversity
Recognizing, valuing, and leveraging the unique perspectives, experiences, and talents of every individual; promoting cross-cultural understanding, fairness and inclusion throughout the organization.
Embracing diversity has long been an essential leadership competency, but the recent emergence of Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement, along with the evolution of LGBTQ into more inclusive LGBTQIA2+, has signaled clearly that leaders need to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). DEI activities gain momentum in 2021, with a WorldatWork study finding that 83% of organizations acted on DEI initiatives that year, almost one-third of whom were taking action for the first time.
Beyond the moral reasons for prioritizing inclusiveness, there are also strong business benefits, including access to talent, customer acquisition, and financial performance.
Access to talent
A Glassdoor survey found that 76% of employees and job seekers factor workplace diversity into their evaluation of companies and job offers, and 37% would not apply to a job at a company where employee satisfaction ratings are different among ethnic or racial groups. Similarly, a McKinsey study that found that employers perceived as non-inclusive risked losing 39% of job applicants.
A culture of inclusivity also gives businesses an advantage when it comes to customer acquisition. Google and Ipsos research found that consumers are more likely to consider or even purchase a product after seeing an ad they think is diverse or inclusive, and the impact is even greater among Black and LGBTQ consumers who interact with inclusive ads. Similarly, a SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey found that 62% of consumers want companies to speak out on political and social issues.
Overall, DEI is a competitive advantage that directly impacts a company's bottom line. McKinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity consistently financially outperform those in the bottom quartile, and the financial disparity between high and low performers has continued to widen, year over year, for at least six years running.
2022 Leadership Competency #2: Acting with Empathy and Compassion
Acting with Empathy and Compassion
Genuinely seeking to understand and respect others’ perspectives and emotions; encouraging a culture of compassion, empathy and support within and beyond the organization.
As year two of the pandemic draws to a close with no definite end in sight, workers' mental health is at an all-time low and stress levels are at all-time highs.
An MHA (Mental Health America) survey found that burnout was at crisis levels in the workplace, with nearly 83% of respondents reporting that they felt emotionally drained from their work, and of those, 71% strongly agreed that their workplace stress affects their mental health.
When employees are expected to continue as though everything is normal, there are consequences. The MHA study, for example, found that 56% of employees who are experiencing workplace stress are looking for another position, while Gallup research found burned out employees are 63% are more likely to take a sick day and half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager.
Company leaders are finally absorbing the message and making changes. The Future Workplace 2021 HR Sentiment survey found that 68% of senior HR leaders rated employee well-being and mental health as a top priority, and Wellable research showed that 37% of employers planned to increase their investment in health and well-being programs, with 90% planning to invest more in employee mental health.
However, most leaders still need help when it comes to acting with empathy and compassion. When Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of more than 1,000 leaders, 91% said compassion is very important for their leadership, but 80% said that while they would like to enhance their compassion, they did not know how to do it.
2022 Leadership Competency #3: Exemplifying Integrity
Treating others fairly, honestly, and respectfully, furthering the integrity of the organization and its relationships of trust with the broader community.
Amid deep fakes, confusion, and misinformation, 2021 was a year that put trust to the test, according to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey. But there is a nugget of good news buried in the data: businesses and business leaders gained trust points overall, suggesting that there is an opportunity for leaders who exemplify integrity to become even more influential and impactful.
The State of Moral Leadership survey, 86% of employees feel that the need for moral leadership in business is more urgent than ever. Close to half would leave the organization of the CEO did not act on a moral issue. Similarly, close to half would take a pay cut to work for a moral leader.
The importance of leadership integrity played out in the headlines in 2021, as the poor choices made by Vishal Garg, CEO of Better.com, put the company in an uncomfortable spotlight. Garg, who chose to lay off 900 employees on a Zoom call that lasted less than three minutes, was quickly condemned by the media and other business leaders. In addition to the serious blow to the company's reputation, Garg's callous actions and the negative attention that followed resulted in the resignation of three key executives and delayed the close date for SPAC funding.
How Competencies Support Evolving Leadership
As businesses turn the page on a new year, their leaders are being asked to step up in new ways. More is being asked of employees as the work-life balance continues to shift in destabilizing ways, and they are looking to their leaders to guide them, acknowledge them, and support them.
By focusing on being more inclusive, compassionate, honest, and respectful, today's leaders can rise to that challenge. But the effort needs to go further than paying lip service to these qualities. They need to be woven into the way leadership roles are constructed so that they influence the way companies identify, develop, and promote leadership talent. By integrating competencies into the leadership profile, organizations can ensure that their leaders can clearly understand the expectations in terms of the behaviors that are expected of them in their critical roles.
Learn more about leadership competency content, or explore the leadership accelerator package to see how HRSG can help your organization align leadership requirements to the needs of today's workplace.