THE jury is still out on whether the business environment in 2015 will look very different from 2014. To make sure you get the most out of your people in the months to come, it will not be a case of disregarding all your existing talent management experience and practices in favour of a completely new way of leading.

Most leaders have the skills to deal with this brave new world; they will just have to learn how to put them into practice in a new context. So as we move into 2015, let’s take a look at the top lessons to take with us from 2014:


Be strategic

Rather than focusing on your leaders being generic, all-things-to-all-men figures of authority, examine exactly how you need them to behave so they are aligned with the strategy of your organisation.

Do you need your leaders specifically to be innovative or delegating, for example? Once you have identified the competencies and behaviours your organisation values, then you can set about developing those in your leaders. This is a strategic approach resulting in more targeted development spends.


Be authentic

Authentic leaders genuinely desire to serve others through their leadership. They are interested in empowering the people they lead to make a difference — more than they are interested in power, money or prestige for themselves. They are guided equally by the heart and the mind.

They lead with purpose, meaning and values. And their people relationships are extremely strong. People follow them because they are consistent, reliable and strong. When they are pushed to go beyond their beliefs and values, they will not compromise. They are dedicated to personal growth and learning because they believe that becoming a leader takes a lifetime.


Accept importance of co-leaders

During challenging times, we need strong leadership, but that comes from a strong team, not from a single autocratic leader. It takes more than one person to be able to cope with the complexity of today’s business, the impact of global markets, increasing regulatory demand and the speed and thrust of change at the workplace.

If you are implementing change initiatives at the workplace, communicate them effectively for your co-leaders to buy into them and come with you. Amid all the upheaval, focus on the vision of the new organisation at the end of the transition.


Put employees before customers

Steady, long-term competitiveness requires an organisation to be committed to putting employees first and developing quality training programmes that are linked to its strategic objectives.

Without true commitment to employees at all levels throughout an organisation, the journey to enhance organisational performance will be an elusive adventure. Quality employees equate to organisational success. Unqualified and poorly trained employees equate to organisational failure.

An organisation’s employees have always made the difference between a truly successful organisation and a mediocre entity, but it is amazing how often managers overlook or discount this fundamental recipe for economic survival.

Organisations with cultures that focus on their people and invest in their future will in the long run be more competitive than cultures that view employees as mere costs to be reduced in times of trouble.


Engage Gen Y and Z workforce

It is important to keep your workforce engaged so your workers will feel responsible for the future of the organisation. This is an objective that is more challenging with a demanding, fickle and talented Generation Y and equally promising Generation Z coming into the workforce.

Research shows they want to work for organisations that show they care for them. At times like these, their flexibility, innovative attitude to ways of working and technological know-how are critical skills for the future success for the organisation.


Create a coaching culture

Leaders who coach their teams through change instead of merely issuing directives encourage employees to take control of their workload and targets. This helps create advocates of change who feel they have a say in the direction of the organisation.

Ultimately, research has consistently shown that developing a coaching culture helps organisations achieve their strategic objectives as well as enhance their business outcomes. Introducing coaching-related competencies into the workplace creates a culture that is adaptive in its continuous process of talent development and organisational learning.


Today’s challenges

In essence, the heart of the leadership challenge that confronts today’s leaders is learning how to lead in situations of ever greater volatility and uncertainty in a globalised business environment.

Leaders also have to deal with scale, complexity and new organisational forms that often break with the traditional organisational models and structures within which many have learned their “leadership trade”. So the basic assumption that past experience is the key to future leadership success is more open to scrutiny than ever.


Article by Professor Sattar Bawany, the chief executive officer and C-Suite master executive coach of the Centre for Executive Education (CEE Global). CEE offers human capital management solutions,  including talent management and executive development programmes (executive coaching and leadership development) that help leaders develop the skills and knowledge to embrace change and catalyse success in today’s workplace. For more information, visit or e-mail