Becoming a great leader requires taking proactive steps to improve your own leadership capabilities. But there's more to it than that.

Engaged leaders need to stay on top of the current trends influencing their individual company, their industry, their employees and attitudes toward the working world in general. To ensure that your company continues to achieve great results, focus on these five leadership trends in 2019:

1. Learn to lead several generations.

For all the articles focused on millennials, 2019 will see a major influx of workers from Generation Z (individuals born in the late 1990s and early 2000s). At the same time, many companies also employ Baby Boomers and members of Generation X.

These age cohorts come from different cultural and economic backgrounds, and the management styles that work for one group may not work for another. Focus on creating an environment where each group feels valued and motivated to give their best effort.

Though you should strive to become more aware of the challenges facing each group, remember that each employee is an individual, not a statistic. Besides, most of the generational stereotypes you read online don't have much, if any, basis in fact.

2. Welcome female leadership.

A 2018 analysis found that only 24 of the companies listed in the Fortune 500 had a female CEO -- troubling numbers in a time when the importance of female leadership is becoming increasingly obvious.

A report from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found a direct correlation between female leadership and profitability. According to the report, "A profitable firm at which 30 percent of leaders are women could expect to add more than 1 percentage point to its net margin compared with an otherwise similar firm with no female leaders."

For business leaders, the next challenge comes in addressing this disparity. Companies that wish to grow need to find ways to diversify their leadership teams. By creating a more inclusive and welcoming culture, leaders can foster an environment where everyone can achieve success.

3. Time to pick up the pace.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Customers demand results faster than ever these days, and the businesses that learn to keep up are the ones that will continue to grow. For leaders, ensuring that "picking up the pace" doesn't lead to a decline in quality will be crucial.

For further elaboration on this, I reached out to Dhruv Saxena, co-founder and CEO of ShipBob. "There has been a major shift in expectations, driven by retail consumers. From two-day shipping of e-commerce orders to near real-time responses for online inquiries, people's expectations continue to evolve," he notes.

"Businesses have to meet these new expectations, yet just as importantly, they must do so without burning out colleagues and employees. For many businesses, this will require adopting new strategies, tools, or services that streamline operations and not only reduce the burden on their staff, but empower them."

Companies that find the balance between increased speed and continued high-quality results will be far better positioned to grow in 2019.

4. Emphasize accountability.

2018 continued to see a major increase in remote work.  While there is no doubt remote work lowers office overhead costs, increases access to a wider range of talent and has the potential to improve productivity, it doesn't come without its challenges.

One of the biggest problems it brings is around accountability. Through my company LearnLoft's work with hundreds of companies, the problem of accountability revolves around having competent and effective leaders. You will see more and more organizations in 2019 provide training and development around having consequential conversations.  

As a business leader, you need to lead the charge by consistently holding yourself and those on your team accountable to a set of standards and values. 

5. Embrace continuing education.

2018 saw a wide array of trends leave their mark on the business world, from the hype over blockchain to the increased utilization of chatbots and other AI tools. What hasn't changed, however, is the necessity of businesses being ready to pivot and adapt to these new trends when needed.

You can save yourself a lot of headaches when you invest in your current employees to help them master the latest changes in technology. Not only will it improve employee engagement and loyalty, but this move will also help you shape your company's future.

As Chad Halvorson writes, "Employee development both trains your current employees for possible future promotion from daily worker to management as well as shows you which employees have aptitude for such a promotion."

Are you poised to lead your team in the right direction in 2019? As you learn more about current trends and apply them appropriately to your own business endeavors, you can have confidence in the direction of your company.

Published on: Dec 31, 2018