In an article published in late December, Markus Keiper — a man who wears many hats, including executive and career coach, professor, author, and partner and friend to Insight Experience — listed his predictions for leadership development and executive learning for the year 2023. That thought-provoking piece is here.
The prediction at the top of Markus's list reads: "Simulations will become the standard for organizational learning/executive education." Markus writes that, after "the draining period" that was COVID-19, executives are weary of virtual PowerPoints. It's time to offer a "new quality" of agile learning, the kind of instruction based on data analytics. "Corporations and institutions will invest in this," Markus asserts.
Given that Insight Experience is in the business of simulations, this makes us happy to read. For as long as we've been teaching leadership development through business simulations for companies all across the globe, we've understood the tremendous value of immersive, simulation-based learning.
Our business simulations are, at their core, tools for enabling the connection between leadership choices and the business results they drive. So as we read provocative and exciting lists like Markus's and as we think about the new year before us, we find ourselves feeling, at the same time, the pull of the rearview mirror, the need to take one more glimpse at 2022 and glean what we can from it. That is, before we plunge headfirst into another January, we want to consider what we learned about leadership development from January to December of last year.
It was a memorable year, after all, one that saw Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the continued tragic loss of life (not to mention the war's continued repercussions for geopolitics and the global economy); sky-high inflation in the U.S.; continued conversations about crypto technology; attempts to meaningfully address climate change; pandemic burnout; Twitter turmoil; the coining of the term "quiet quitting"; hybrid learning; a more laser-focused attention to employee well-being; and so much more.
So what did Insight Experience's facilitators out in the field (virtual classes, in-person programs, and some that included both people in the flesh and people on screens) learn about leadership in 2022? And which of those learnings will they carry with them into the new year? Because I was curious, I asked. And the responses reflect a year in which so many of us attempted to find our footing once again. In these reflections, I see themes about trust, teamwork, and the notion that an authentic leader doesn't have to pretend to have all the answers and, instead, leads their team with transparency and self-awareness. This is fitting for a year of reconnecting, reaffirming, and rebuilding.
Some of our facilitators' responses are below. What themes do you see?
Krista Campbell, facilitator and Associate Director of Insight Experience: "2022 reminded me that our job as leaders is not to have all the answers. Our job is to bring out the best in our teams and leverage their expertise and collective genius."
Rachel Halsall, facilitator, executive coach, and public speaker: "I think what stood out for me this year was that, more than ever before, the leaders I worked with who seemed most fulfilled and enjoyed their role and their challenges did the following things consistently (and, I would argue, with a raised appetite). They:
- Listened to what employees/customers/shareholders wanted and communicated that they heard — and acted on it.
- Sought opportunities to learn from others and encouraged everyone to do the same — and shared what they learned.
- Led by example by sharing their intentions behind why they did something; shared when they didn't know; and shared that they, too, are human and that this stuff is challenging.
- They did it all with less ego. (It's not about you.)"
Karen Maxwell Powell, facilitator and General Manager of Insight Experience: "In 2022, I was reminded of the importance of individualized leadership. Diverse teams bring so much value to a business and to each other. To really embrace diversity within our organization, we leaders need to be prepared to tailor communication approaches, frequency, support style, and accessibility to suit the needs of many different people. If we can do that effectively, each individual will grow and succeed to the best of their ability and the entire team benefits. It requires more planning and focus, but is also the most rewarding thing we can do."
Thaddeus Ward, facilitator and consultant: "An enormous percentage of leadership is simply discipline. One-to-one meetings are as sacred as operational cadence. These provide the backbone for crisis prevention and enable team members to excel. A disciplined cadence enables early detection of issues; consistent reinforcement of new behavior patterns and key initiatives; and personal connections to figure out where and how people are most/least engaged. A leader of leaders is there to enable other people's creativity and helps them identify the right problems — and then supports them in executing their solutions."
Laurel Tyler, facilitator and consultant: "Everywhere I went this year, virtual or in person, I watched leaders grapple with how to retain and engage employees. The competitive labor market helped organizations understand in new and deeper ways the value of their workforce and freed them up to expand their views on what is appropriate, necessary, and even the right thing to do. It’s been amazing and inspiring to watch — and I hope we have only seen the beginnings of this transformation."
Tim Goodman, facilitator and consultant: "In 2022, I was I was reminded how important it is to keep this in mind when working with others in leadership contexts: Changing one’s own responses and behaviors is hard because of the 'blocking effect' of our hard won and trusty habits, which are the typical responses and behaviors we develop over time when faced with recurring situations. Our habits are to our behavior as our assumptions are to our thinking, and they help us from becoming paralyzed when dealing with complexity. As a leader looking to develop my 'leadership repertoire,' I must be willing to examine my habits in order to adjust my behavior in meaningful ways that positively impact others. An intellectual understanding of the predictable impacts of an existing habit, or the potential of a new habit, is often not enough to affect change in a timely manner; the impacts of habits must be experienced and felt, not just logically understood. I find that keeping in mind these ideas about the nature of habits when facilitating simulations (or just dealing with real life) can be very helpful."
Leah Carey, facilitator, consultant, and executive coach: "So many books are written about how to do leadership, but leadership is about being a leader. And anyone at any level in any role in any organization can choose to be a leader. The first step is to know who you are. I saw this shift from doing leadership to being a leader happen over and over this year, in classrooms and with individual clients. People seemed to be returning to what they know, in their guts, and then applying that to situations in which they need to lead. Our work is to keep giving them the tools to do both — to become self-aware and to have frameworks within which to practice their own version of leadership."
2023 is set to be another year of learning and growth, and we are excited to have you on the journey with us. If you have not already, subscribe to our blog, Insightful Ideas, where we publish new thought leadership every other week.
Julie Danielson is an Associate Consultant at Insight Experience, an award-winning global leadership development company with an expertise in business simulations. Julie works as a project manager across various learning experiences. She is also a member of the marketing team. You can often find her copyediting, creating content, and researching publishing opportunities.