The Future of Work Requires Adaptable Leadership, Here's Why

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The Future of Work Requires Adaptable Leadership


As we enter into the new year and decade of 2020, we can't help but wonder what's to come for the future of the workplace culture. How will companies be able to achieve maximum employee engagement and productivity with a growing generational overlap among employees?


People who were born in 1999 are turning 21 this year, likely graduating from college and preparing to enter the workforce. Baby Boomers [born 1946-1964] have monopolized the workforce for the past few decades. They still, however, maintain an active presence because the tail end of their generation is about a decade away from retirement.


And let's not forget about millennials [born 1981-1996] who are rising leaders in organizations, not exactly fresh meat in the workforce, but not exactly planning for their retirement either.


So, what does that leave us?


A beautiful assortment of diverse people bringing different skill sets, varying life experiences, different values and individual learning styles who will all be expected to harmoniously work together towards a common company goal.


This intermingled workforce could prove to be a sweet dream, or a beautiful nightmare unless companies create an adaptable leadership culture to satisfy the needs of this developing employee population. With this blended workforce, employee needs will evolve but the responsibility for leaders to meet these needs will remain unchanged.


To properly prepare for these generational workforce changes, leaders will need to be adaptable in how they provide support, teach, communicate, delegate and motivate others in the workplace. Leaders will need to know who employees are as individuals and adjust how they lead them accordingly. Practicing this personalized leadership service will be essential for companies to embrace to foster an adaptable leadership culture.


There are two common mistakes leaders make when it comes to leading others. One being, they lead people how they like to be led. Just because a leader has a particular preference or expectation when it comes to leadership doesn't mean it should be considered the best way to lead others. Adaptable leaders understand employees might not have the same preferences concerning how they want to be led, so they take the time to get to know the individual preferences for the members of their teams.


For example as a leader, you might appreciate how your boss communicates mostly through e-mail because it's easier and less time consuming than interrupting your day for a phone call. So, you make it a point to communicate with your team through email, because you appreciate the benefits it provides for you.


However, there could be people on your team who prefer a personal conversation when you are conveying certain messages because they process information better through hearing versus reading. But you miss this need because your preferred method of communication is e-mail.


Adaptable leadership is understanding that different people with different personalities will receive direction differently.


Some employees might prefer text message communications, and others might need an email or phone call. Adaptable leaders will understand varying preferences, and find ways to meet the varying needs.


The second mistake leaders make is using a "one size fits all" approach when leading others. Deploying one tactic to meet the needs of everyone will cause an imbalance with the team's sentiments about leadership effectiveness. There is no "one way" to teach because people learn differently. There is no one method to communicate because people receive and transmit information differently.


Adaptable leadership requires maintaining versatility when interacting with others and aligning leadership styles according to the individual's preference for interaction and engagement.


Leaders will have to get to know who their employees are as individuals. When leaders apply practices and techniques based on the employee's individual needs, they can connect and relate to the people depending on them for direction. They can satisfy their professional needs and thus deliver a work environment where people feel appreciated and valued.


There are several different ways to get to know your employees and their leadership preference. The most practical way however, would be simply asking them. Consider scheduling one-on-one meetings and asking them directly. Asking questions about how they prefer to communicate, what motivates them, and how they like to be recognized are some examples of where to start. Also, observe how they interact with you and others. If they are continually recognizing people on the team, that might be a sign that recognition is important to them.


As the aging workforce population gradually intersects with the digital age generation, leaders should expect variations in the people dynamics on their teams.


Developing an adaptable leadership culture will require organizations to encourage behaviors that focus on understanding individual employee work preferences and priorities, and balance accommodating those needs with business objectives. Otherwise, organizations will risk losing talent, experience low employee morale, and see an increase in Employee and Labor Relations issues; all factors that will impact the ability to deliver high-performing teams.


Adaptable leadership requires leaders to understand employee individual preferences so that they are effective in being the type of leader the employee needs.


Successful leaders of the future will be able to adapt, adjust and deliver.

Are you one of them?



About the Author

LaShawn Davis

LaShawn Davis has worked for numerous Fortune 100 companies in an HR role, making it her mission to maintain mutual respect in the workplace between employers and employees. She has also founded her own HR consulting company, The HR Plug. As a part of this, she facilitates training/workshops and does public speaking, on the subject of HR and leadership, with her ultimate aim being to get companies to understand and appreciate the value of their employees. You can visit her at


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