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6 Defining Leadership Trends for 2017

As leaders, we have a sphere of influence that begins with ourselves and spirals outward to various congregations around us. So refining our leadership always begins at a very personal level. Regardless of what’s happening in politics, the Middle East, or the C-suite of our largest competitor, we each have to go into 2017 with a personal plan for how we will lead. It’s the only way we can truly make a difference.

Your approach to leadership in 2017 – your strategies, your mindset, and, most of all, your behaviors – will influence the lives of individuals, teams, and your organization. And it will contribute to the broader landscape of leadership in our country.

So as we close the books on 2016, I’ll ask you this personal question: What leadership trends will you personally help destroy in 2017 and what trends will you personally work to build?

If enough of us work to destroy the bad leadership trends and build the positive trends, the overall tide of leadership will rise to something better than it’s been. When I survey the leadership landscape, here are some of the trends I hope we’ll all work to destroy and some of the trends I hope we’ll all work to build in 2017.

Leadership Trends to Destroy

Wall building (get over your pride). Most of us don’t like to be wrong, and we especially don’t like to admit to others when we’re wrong. So we put up walls or we offer excuse after excuse for what went wrong rather than looking for legitimate reasons and taking personal responsibility for our mistakes. We close our minds to truth and forget about doing what’s right because we’re focused on protecting our pride.

Group-think (mend the division). You know the old saying about birds of a feather flocking together, right? Well, it’s often true in life. Most of us gravitate toward people who think like us and support our opinions. Over time, this creates multiple “camps,” each fighting for its own agenda and dismissing the ideas and insights of “those other people.”

Shut-Yo-Face (stop the insults). One of the more disturbing trends I saw in 2016 was the continued loss of civility in public discourse. Yes, it was an election year, but political candidates provide just one example. Unfortunately, the response to those who disagree with us too often is to out-shout or out-insult them, be it in person, behind their backs or on social media.

One way to destroy those trends, of course, is by promoting their opposite – we can promote accountability, collaboration, and dignity. All three of these goals can be accomplished as part of a broader building campaign that’s founded on the following trends.

What trends in leadership will you personally help destroy in 2017 and what trends will you personally work to build? tweet this

Leadership Trends to Build

Open the Window (be transparent). As leaders, we can provide a window into our souls, sharing who we are, what we believe in, and why we care about our work and our vision for the organization. This isn’t about sharing every detail of our lives with anyone and everyone. It’s about sharing relevant information, even if it’s our flaws, for the greater good of our team.

Checkers and Tea (reach out). Trust is built on relationships and relations don’t happen in silos. They happen when we visit with other people and get to know them. We play a friendly game of checkers or we share a hot pot of tea (or a cold pitcher for those in the South). When we discover who people are and what matters to them in life, we are less likely to judge them or dismiss their opposing viewpoints. Instead, we learn to work together toward common ground.

Lend a Hand (serve others). Making a profit is important in business, but leadership is about service. More and more organizations make service to others a core part of what they do. So, start by helping the person next to you at work. Make service a habit that excludes no one. When you’re trying to help another person, you never shoot them down.

No matter what we do in 2017, we can rest assured that the world won’t suddenly discover nirvana. There will be trouble. There will be challenges. Our role as leaders is to help shape things for the better … to have a positive influence on others. We might not achieve perfection, but we should do our part to keep leadership trending in the right direction.

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  1. vikaas Guptha

    My experience with leadership is based on two simple things – 1. do you genuinely like and love people and want to help hem move forward? 2. Be a genuinely nice person. Then no other qualifications or ornaments are required.

    Reply to vikaas Guptha

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Yes, I’m often reminded of Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”–we just need to keep learning how to apply those lessons when the challenges we face are greater than sharing crayons.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

  2. Ken

    When you talk about being transparent. How do firgure out what is too much to share? Is it a trial and error lesson? Can you give some examples of what’s to much and when it is not enough? Thank you.

    Reply to Ken

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Hi Ken,

      It’s a measure of instinct and developing filters. Every situation, every organization, and every relationship will require different nuances. The filter I use is always: does this build trust? For example, sometimes being vulnerable and admitting you don’t know the answer–which is something I did while facing some of our bleakest financial forecast–helped mobilize the executive and management teams to work together to find a direction forward. When we realized we would need to cut back workforce, we found that it was important to share that information with employees sooner, even before we knew who would be let go. It came with the risk that we might lose some people we didn’t want to, but we found it was better to communicate and promise to remain honest–and be as helpful as possible to their transition–in the process. In the end, employees felt better prepared and empowered. And because they respected the decision, many came back once we were able to rehire.

      I hope these examples provide some insight. I speak about a number of these situations in some of the other blogs here. I hope you’ll check them out.

      These two highlight instances of honesty when dealing with the boardroom:




      Reply to Walt Rakowich

      1. Ken

        Hi Walt,

        Thank you for taking the time to reply to my to my questions. Your answers have brought insight and I look forward for the opportunities to practice being transparent. In hopes to build a stronger more unified team. I have read and will continue to read through your blogs.

        Thank you again,

        Reply to Ken

  3. Lynn field

    Thank you. I am a new manager of a quality assurance team that us growing.

    Reply to Lynn field

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Thanks for commenting, Lynn. I hope the “good trends” are helpful as you lead your new team. I also hope that you keep reading and commenting.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

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