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  • Writer's pictureMichael McClanahan

Embracing Adversity: The Most Impactful Traits for Business Leaders Today and Tomorrow



As the consumer begins to define the marketplace in the second half of the 2020s, business leaders are perplexed about embracing the onslaught of a world undergoing a radical shift. Critical factors include disruptive technology, climate shifts, radical economic growth in emerging nations, and a call to place sustainability over profitability. Furthermore, the growth of artificial intelligence has caused even the savviest business and thought leaders, like Elon Musk, to admit endeavors like SpaceX and Tesla are not economically viable in the future economy. However, with all of the changes, there appears to be an emergence of traits business leaders must possess to future-proof their role over the next five years.   


One of the most obvious skills a leader must possess is the uncanny ability of adaptability in the face of adversity. Adaptability is acknowledging uncertainty through embracing a growth mindset symbolized by openness to direct feedback, seeking new opportunities and experiences, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Staying informed through the latest industry trends, market shifts, and disruptive technologies will enable the leader to maintain the proper groundedness to make informed decisions in an unstable market. Team empowerment through experimentation that enables teams to fail fast and learn from failures will allow the team to embrace ongoing change as a growth agent and use resiliency in times of uncertainty.


Embracing ongoing change, using setbacks as an opportunity for learning, and possessing a positive outlook in uncertainty and difficult times equips the business leader with critical attributes for the team to look up to and emulate. Bouncing back and accepting the experience as a stepping stone for future innovation helps to instill a sense of genuine ownership across the team from the top down and a willingness to grow and get smarter through individual contributions to grow collectively. A critical trait of a business leader with high emotional intelligence is demonstrating resiliency, which is crucial in a team-oriented environment.


Self-awareness, or the ability of a leader to recognize their emotional strengths, weaknesses, and values, can help them navigate the appropriate behaviors and decisions. Instead of reacting negatively to a setback, the business leader can holistically analyze the situation and identify opportunities in the ashes and triggers to overcome threats. Understanding and empathetically seeking input about the situation through the eyes of the team members can also evoke a passion and commitment to resolving the setback through a more inclusive lens. The approach is not meant to accommodate but to establish and effectively communicate verbally and non-verbally a willingness to be impactful through action and assembly.


Tech savviness, the ability to relentlessly embrace and leverage technology, cannot be overlooked. Digital literacy skills at the leadership level and mandating team members learn digital concepts must be a part of a continuous learning program. The program must require specific courses and be updated to remain technically astute and aware of its role in the current and future workplace. Embracing data-driven decision-making and learning how to leverage data analytic tools will also enable the leader to make informed business decisions on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, cyber threats exist, and staying informed on the latest trends and knowing best practices to share with the team can help mitigate cyberattack exposure and help prioritize the company's most significant organizational digital assets and propriety information.


Growing large but thinking small helps to shape leads and leverage how interconnectedness can help the organization explore opportunities globally. A broad understanding of international business and cultural awareness helps a business leader sustain a growth mindset and future expansion for the organization. Maintaining and prioritizing the customer's needs and expectations helps to put the necessary focus on what matters and eliminates the extraneous urge to boil the ocean for everyone.

Above all, maintaining an ethical demeanor must be interwoven in the business leader's DNA. Integrity and honesty in all communications and a transparent approach are essential in all business and personal dealings. Discrimination cannot be tolerated at the consumer, business peer, supplier, or individual level. Promoting diversity and embracing inclusive thought leadership helps to promote an ethical business environment and a cauldron of innovative thought leadership. Society and the environment must always be an integral part of a social responsibility outlook and a transparent trait within the business leader in their approach to remain impactful.


The shift to radically innovate, change the business landscape with disruptive technology, and challenge the status quo is on full alert in today's business landscape. Arming oneself with adaptability, emotional intelligence, visionary thinking and innovative mindset, emotional intelligence, tech savviness, and global perspective, all under an inclusive and ethical approach, can help elevate the existing and aspiring business leader to have what it takes in the next five years. Utilizing this set of hard and soft skills and a commitment to continuous learning can help the business leader and every committed employee thrive in this age of uncertainty.


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