6 need-to-know leadership trends to uplift your career in 2022

If you’re thinking about changing careers or taking the next step professionally, you’re not alone. As many as 3.3 million Australians are rethinking their careers post-pandemic, following the global trend known as The Great Resignation or the Great Reshuffle (ING Future Focus Report, 2020).

“Now’s the perfect time to consider a career change”, according to UQ MBA careers and employability expert, Remi Descamps.

Whether you’re looking to change careers, move up the ladder or even start your own business, developing your leadership capabilities will help you take the next step. According to top UQ Business School researchers, these 6 leadership trends will dominate the business landscape in 2022 and beyond.

1. Embracing an innovation mindset

Did you know half the companies on the 2019 Fortune 500 List were founded during an economic downturn? In fact, many of today’s business unicorns, including Airbnb, Slack and Uber, are children of the Global Financial Crisis.

Why is this? Dr Frederik von Briel says the answer lies in adopting an innovation mindset and knowing how to leverage change rather than being overrun by it. The key to doing this well is in understanding how and when you should act on change. “This requires you to evaluate whether change will allow you to shape your market offering, your organisation, or the processes you engage in”, Frederik says. “Once you understand this, you will be able to identify when you actually need to act.” 

Embracing an innovation mindset

2. Building a positive culture in remote teams

The trend of remote took off during the pandemic and despite causing a whole new set of challenges for leaders, it’s a trend likely to stay. Thankfully, according to UQ experts, the answer may lie in getting back to communication basics.

“If you were sitting in a face-to-face meeting and one of your team members wasn’t participating, you would look to their body language for signs that they were disengaged and check in. The same approach should be taken to virtual communication – particularly in a group, Dr Miriam Moeller says. “If someone isn’t participating, there’s likely a reason, so it’s important to check in with them.”

One of the reasons a team member withdraws interaction could be due to cyber bullying. “Whether it is deliberate or unintentional, cyber ostracism can have dire consequences for individuals, teams and organisations,” Miriam explains. 

Associate Professor Remi Ayoko agrees, saying “Leaders need to learn how to identify whether cyberbullying is taking place and how to manage inter-personal team conflict in a virtual environment.” To do this, leaders should arm themselves with compassion and empathy.

“There is a very real need to incorporate more ongoing emotional support and this will reshape the way we lead our people in the future,” Remi says.

Building a positive culture in remote teams

3. Data-led decision making

Under pressure, leaders need to make decisions quickly. Understanding data and can help leaders make objective, fact-based decisions in dynamic environments when the stakes are high.

“When exposed to tough decisions, it’s common for leaders to feel pressured by multiple parties that have a stake in the decision,” Dr Ida Someh says. “Data helps to show what is really happening in the world and helps guide decisions. If there is a conflict, data can bring multiple parties together to agree on what needs to be done.”

But understanding data is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important leaders know how to use data to communicate insights and validate decisions.

"Leaders need to be able to convince stakeholders that they’ve made the right decision and get their commitment for action. They can do this by connecting the dots and building a narrative explaining what the data tells us,” Ida says."

Data-led decision making

4. Adopting the triple bottom line approach

This approach to business places equal concern on social, environmental, and financial implications. The trend has been growing over the past decade, particularly since the Climate of the Nation 2019 report revealed a growing concern among Australians about environmental issues. This concern is being reflected in consumer and investor behaviour, which presents a commercial risk to organisations that don’t act, according to Dr Belinda Wade.

“Leaders who fail to move to a triple bottom line approach risk stepping out of alignment with societal expectations and losing their social licence to operate”, Belinda says. “Risking their social licence means risking community, employee and investor support; all areas very difficult to repair once they are damaged by careless actions.”

Adopting the triple bottom line approach

5. Wellbeing leadership

Wellbeing leadership challenges traditional views that economic outcomes are the sole indicator of performance and business success. Instead, it aims to maximise outcomes across eight components: economic; material; physical; psychological; social; cultural; environmental and spiritual. The key to this leadership trend is getting the balance across all eight components right.  

“COVID-19 taught us that we can’t take wellbeing or business-as-usual for granted”, says Dr Lance Newey. “We’ve seen that the forces of nature, whether it be viruses or bushfires, can shut down whole economies. Economies must act in concert with the wellbeing of people, environments and communities,” Lance says.

Wellbeing leadership

6. Identifying ethical blind spots

When times are tough or in competitive work cultures, businesses and individuals are more likely to feel pressure to perform, which can lead to an increase in unethical behaviour. As we continue to deal with challenges associated with the pandemic, this is a real risk for leaders. Whether deliberate or unintentional, to address unethical behaviour, leaders need to be aware of their blind spots and eradicate them.

Dr Michael Collins says, “While bonuses and commissions offer powerful incentives, they can also motivate individuals to focus on short-term goals at the expense of being a team player – discouraging collaboration and encouraging cheating.”

One clear warning sign of unethical behaviour is authoritarian leadership. “When a leader is wielding their power, there is often a lack of transparency and employees tend to be more focused on getting the job done at any cost to avoid negative consequences than on doing the right thing,” Michael says.

Identifying ethical blind spots

Ready to put these leadership trends into practice?Ready to put these leadership trends into practice?

Embrace an innovation mindset for greater agility 

Use data to make important decisions 

Consider ways to build a positive culture among remote teams 

Adopt a triple bottom line approach 

Tap into the wisdom of wellbeing leadership

Identify and address ethical blind spots

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