The Forecast for 2024? Continued Uncertainty for Leaders


We’d all like to be able to predict the future: Will the economy stabilize in 2024? Will our candidate win the presidential election? Will world conflicts ease or intensify? And in the workplace, who will gain the upper hand in the return-to-office debate? Will commitment to DEI initiatives stay strong or fizzle out? And how do we handle AI?

Humans have a basic need for certainty, outlined in The SCARF® Model. But for many of us, certainty took a nosedive in 2020 and has never fully recovered. Now, continued change in the world of work threatens to send many leaders into an uncertainty crisis, writes NLI founder and CEO David Rock in Fast Company.

Although it’s impossible to predict the future, astute leaders can “read the tea leaves” to discern signs pointing the way forward. Here are five leadership trends Rock predicts for 2024.

  1. A new kind of leader

NLI has polled hundreds of talent executives, and there’s wide agreement that at least 50% of the skills leaders need today are skills they currently lack. For example, today’s leaders need to build a sense of community among people who rarely or never gather in the same building. They also need to balance psychological safety and accountability, making employees feel safe to speak up while holding them accountable for meeting and exceeding expectations. And they must be able to see into the future of AI, embracing a growth mindset to discover new ways to work with AI while still valuing — and reskilling — human talent.

  1. Reimagining leadership development

With so many new skills required, leaders need a much more efficient way to learn. Many leadership development programs don’t build habits that lead to real behavior change. Gathering top leaders for an off-site retreat can boost relatedness for those who attend, but it’s expensive, exclusive, and impossible to scale to the entire company. On the other extreme are relatively inexpensive content libraries that anyone in the company can access, but few make use of the resource besides those who are already good leaders.

NLI believes that 2024 will usher in new approaches for leadership development, ones that combine the latest digital and AI tools with social interaction to maintain leaders’ attention, spark strong insights, and inspire them to act.

  1. DEI woven into the fabric of leadership

Concerns about possible legal challenges to DEI initiatives have left many leaders questioning how to fulfill their commitment to inclusive practices and bias mitigation. In 2024, NLI expects DEI to become less of a stand-alone concept and will instead be woven into the fabric of good leadership. Learning to recognize and mitigate bias will be included in leadership training and considered an essential skill for leaders to make sound decisions and develop high-performing teams.

  1. Rethinking performance management for hybrid workplaces

Although many workplaces went hybrid in the early days of the pandemic, leaders still haven’t figured out how to measure and manage performance for employees they don’t see as much (or at all). What’s become increasingly clear is surveillance and performance ratings aren’t working. As a result, 2024 will likely witness new approaches to performance management that recognize and reward an employee’s needs for status, autonomy, certainty, relatedness, and fairness (The SCARF® Model).

  1. Preparing for AI transformation

According to Rock, 2024 will be a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence, which has already started to transform marketing, sales, customer service, and many other functions. The 2023 writers’ strike exemplifies the anxiety many employees feel over AI disruption and the future of their work. It’ll be up to leaders to figure out how to leverage this powerful tool, which tasks are still best performed by humans, and how to reskill large swaths of the workforce.

The only thing certain about 2024 is continued uncertainty. Finding the correct path forward will require clear thinking, bold experimentation, and creating any clarity you can around strategies for the year ahead.

Read the full article in Fast Company here.

Author: NeuroLeadership Institute

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