Still Searching? The three things your business needs to do now to find the next-generation of leaders

Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCEO Succession
min Article
Paul Ballman
January 18, 2022
3 min
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipCEO Succession
Executive summary
Perhaps the only certainty of 2022 is that uncertainty will continue to shape the business landscape.


So, it’s hardly surprising that many business leaders are starting the new year looking for answers – it’s a natural response to the turmoil of the last two years. 

But I would urge that we take a step back – every good answer starts with a good question, and, for me, we need to stay in the question. We all want to pinpoint what makes great leadership in 2022 but, against the prevailing outlook of the global pandemic and economic instability, the answer is not fixed but fluttering on the winds of specific situations, many of which are evolving at a rapid pace. 

Whatever your size or sector, staying in the question means embracing a spirit of experimentation, discovery, openness and adaption – if we’re going to find the right leadership qualities for each business, we need to work together. This is perhaps what excites me most about our journey in 2022. 

If Job One for the new year is to stay in the question, Job Two must be to address the structural bias that can limit our collective ambitions. The acceleration of remote working is one of the most obvious societal silver linings of COVID-19 but, as businesses begin to work out how to remodel themselves in the wake of the pandemic, it’s critical that they don’t encumber themselves with solutions that exclude certain demographics. 

As has been well documented, organisations are busy creating “new” structures to allow their staff to operate in new and different ways, but the danger here is that we revert to traditional practices. For example, presenteeism has historically favoured men so a new structure grounded in a traditional belief like the one above can quickly see a business going backward on its diversity agenda. 

If we want to keep the best talent, we need to allow staff to work in a multitude of different ways – and ensure that all, not just some, routes are heading in the direction of promotion and other rewards. This brings us back to the importance of staying in the question because the answer is rarely as simple as just “back to office” or “working from home”. 

There’s clearly no right or wrong here. I have had several chats already this year with clients extolling the benefits of being back in the office and suddenly feeling more in the loop thanks to spontaneous and helpful conversations that would not have happened virtually. Equally, I have had other conversations with those who are embracing the opportunity for more flexibility and are eager for it to continue. The danger of a two-tier system emerging is great and the danger of that system being gender biased is even greater. A shifting landscape will only be successfully navigated with an agile approach. 

Underpinning both of the tasks above is a third requirement for self-reflection. We’ve all had different experiences in the last two years, but how do we take these lessons forward in 2022? Most of us have realised that we are not all in the same boat – we’re in the same storm but in different boats. 

What we have now is the opportunity to plot our own course and not necessarily follow the path of previous leaders. The world has changed forever, and the role models of the past don’t necessarily apply anymore. In 2022 we have the chance to be the leader our values want us to be and the fact that there’s no fixed formula for “right” isn’t a valid reason for not being the leader you want to be. There’s more than one way to achieve success – it’s time to be your own guru, be your own leader. 

As we brace ourselves for another challenging but potentially rewarding year, I firmly believe that these three simple steps will help identify and nurture the next generation of leaders.