What It Means to Be a Leader in 2021 and Beyond


Being a leader and managing a team has never been an easy task, even for natural leaders. And the idea of what makes a good manager continues to change as the years go by and the nature of work evolves.

Because of the pandemic, that evolution was put into hyperdrive. In just a year, we saw a dramatic shift in how businesses operate. At first, it was out of necessity and to keep employees safe. But now, many of those changes have stuck, and we’re left with a whole new work landscape — which means managers have to adapt to succeed.

Remote Work

While working from home has been on the rise for years, there were many business leaders who weren’t on board and didn’t allow employees to work remotely. And before 2020, that was their prerogative. But when the pandemic hit, most were forced to send their employees home to work for the foreseeable future.

All of a sudden, managers had to modify their approach to, well, everything. Properly managing a remote team comes with a different set of challenges than dealing with an in-person team. While you still need to be a strong, decisive, and communicative leader, you also must embrace trust and flexibility.

Working from home means employees can be available for longer hours compared to being in the office. But being at home also comes with competing responsibilities and distractions, like kids, pets, laundry, cooking, and cleaning. Managers need to allow their employees to have some leeway in the exact hours that they work every day. The mindset these days is, “I don’t care when you work, as long as it gets done” (to a certain extent, of course).


Despite being more flexible, managers still need to make sure their team remains accountable and productive. Technology like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, and many more are now indispensable, as they are the primary way coworkers communicate. Instead of being able to just drop into someone’s office, managers now have to work harder to get some “face-to-face” time via video chat or over the phone. It’s become even more important to schedule check-ins and one-on-one meetings, so you have your finger on the pulse of your employees.

In addition, some businesses are leveraging technology to monitor their team members, such as tracking computer usage, using virtual clocking in and out, and monitoring emails or internal chat. This should be considered carefully, however, as a manager who micromanages isn’t usually appreciated.

Greater Support

The pandemic called more attention to issues like work/life balance, childcare, and mental health. It became vital for managers to check on employees’ well-being — not just because it’s important for the quality of work but also because they actually care about their team members. As a result, soft skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and strong communication have become crucial.

To help employees put their health and wellness first, managers can establish closer relationships with an open-door policy. When your team feels comfortable talking to you, they’re more likely to open up and admit when they feel overwhelmed and need a break. Managers can also encourage healthy habits by modeling self-care and a proper work/life balance themselves.

Younger Generations

As younger millennials and older Gen Zers begin their careers, managers should be aware of their needs in the workplace. While they do have their differences, these generations generally place high importance on flexibility, diversity and inclusion, technology (especially mobile), clear communication, collaboration, and recognition. It’s imperative to utilize emotional intelligence with them, as they are more likely to be forthcoming about their feelings and desire for a healthy work/life balance.

As new generations come into the workforce and world events shape our experiences, managers need to remain agile. While there are many universal “rules” to being a successful manager, everyone is unique and should be supported in ways that best help them succeed.

Interested in learning more about improving management to strategically grow and better your company for 2021? Get in touch!

See Also:

CEO Insight: Building Resilient Teams? Start Here.

How to Forge a Solutions-Oriented Culture

The Power of Words: How Your Communication Style Impacts Your Leadership

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