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Top Leadership Skills Trending And How To Master Them

As one decade draws to a close and another begins, business leaders are preparing for an unpredictable future. With the rapid acceleration of technology and changing expectations in leadership skills and values, the business landscape is evolving at an increasingly rapid pace.  

Discover the best strategies for staying ahead of the curve as we explore the top business trends predicted to make their mark in 2020 and how to master the leadership skills you need to adapt.

Embrace automation

The fear of robots stealing our jobs isn’t new – but it’s starting to feel more prevalent with every passing year. According to a report by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, 44%  of jobs in Australia are highly susceptible to automation. 

Such alarming statistics have created no shortage of angst regarding the rise of artificial intelligence, but it’s not all doom and gloom. In 2020 and beyond, business leaders will be able to enhance the efficiency of their workforce by delegating tedious tasks to AI. Embracing automation will give your employees a chance to spend time on higher-level responsibilities, making their jobs more enjoyable rather than obsolete.

Be agile

The rise of technology and expanding global markets has led to increased volatility and uncertainty in the business world. With the pace of innovation and ambiguity showing no signs of slowing down, unprecedented demand for agile leadership is predicted to be one of the biggest trends in 2020. 

Many businesses are starting to see the value of agile operating models. A Deloitte survey of more than 10,000 senior executives revealed that more than 90% of those executives see “agility and collaboration” as critical to their firm’s success.

But what does agile leadership look like? 

More than any other factor, the key to adapting an agile style of leadership depends on your ability to change your mindset and develop new capabilities. To keep up with the rapidly evolving business landscape, expanding your skillset to allow for more agility will be crucial in 2020.

Have self-awareness

Gone are the days when enterprises could operate in total secrecy. From where you source products to how much you pay your employees, almost every aspect of an organisation’s innerworkings are regarded as a reasonable target for scrutiny in today’s hyper-transparent world. Consumer demand for greater transparency means businesses are held to higher standards, necessitating greater self-awareness in leaders. 

Self-awareness isn’t just good for your business’s public image – in a survey of 486 publicly traded companies, Korn/Ferry International found that companies with strong financial performance had employees with higher levels of self-awareness than those that recorded poor performances.  

A key component of emotional intelligence, self-awareness is simply the conscious understanding of one’s own character. Developing self-awareness can take time, but it will be essential for leaders to keep up with this evolving expectation in 2020.

  • These are some techniques you can use to become more self-aware at work: 
  • Request feedback from employees 
  • Undertake leadership training 
  • Be open to learning from others regardless of their level of seniority. 

These techniques will give you the ability to identify your own blind spots, so you can become a more transparent leader.

Don't be afraid of experimentation

With the continued glorification of Silicon Valley-style disruptors, rejecting the status quo for a more experimental mindset is sure to be one of the biggest business trends in 2020. If you’re afraid to rock the boat, consider the potential benefits – Forrester predicts companies actively trying to harness the power of experimentation are growing on average 30% more annually and are expected to earn $1.8 trillion by 2021.

A culture of experimentation starts with senior team members, giving leaders the opportunity to empower their employees to step outside their comfort zone. It might be daunting, but experimentation will help your business thrive in 2020.

Value sustainability  

As organisations realise the benefits of minimising their ecological footprint, sustainable strategies have become an essential part of the modern business model. A new study released by HP and Planet Ark has revealed that consumers are willing to spend more money on environmentally sustainable brands, demonstrating the value in going green. 

These are some of the sustainability trends for businesses to consider in 2020: 

  • The circular economy – A circular economy is an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional linear economy. Instead of making, using and disposing of products, circular economies keep products in use for as long as possible before recovering them to be recycled or resold. 
  • Sustainability training – Training employees on the importance of protecting the environment can help your business become more sustainable at all levels. 
  • Sustainable supply chains – Commit to using environmentally conscious vendors to minimise your impact on the environment. 

Transitioning to a sustainable business may involve some initial expenses – but the cost will be worth it if it means keeping up with consumer expectations.


Not sure if you’ve got what it takes to face the challenges of the new year? Studying an MBA will help you stay ahead of business trends in 2020 and beyond. The University of Adelaide’s 100% online MBA program lets you develop leadership skills without pressing pause on your career. We also offer specialist MBA streams for IT and healthcare professionals. Learn more about earning your MBA at the University of Adelaide and download a brochure today.


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