Our Top Leadership Articles of 2021
December 29, 2021
A roundup of DDI’s top leadership articles of 2021, and the key leadership trends they point to in the year ahead.
Looking backward is one of our most powerful tools to help us look forward. And as the year draws to a close, a look at our top leadership articles of 2021 offers a powerful peek into what’s ahead.
As you take a look at the list, you might notice a few key themes jump out at you:
- We are craving great data for guidance. As the world becomes more uncertain, we’re looking for all the tools we can to understand what’s going on, and what’s coming next.
- The nature of leadership is changing. We need leaders now more than ever who know how to build strong, trusting, and inclusive relationships with their teams.
- Developing the next generation of leaders is becoming much more challenging, but more critical than ever. As turnover continues to skyrocket, leaders are increasingly under pressure to change. But they’re feeling just as burned out—if not more so—than their teams. So it’s critical for companies to give them support, or risk having massive gaps in their leadership pipelines.
So settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and get caught up on some of the top leadership articles for 2021. They should be your inspiration for a much stronger 2022.
Full disclosure: we’re bending the rules a bit for this one. Technically, we published it at the very end of 2020. But we couldn’t overlook it because it was published too late to make our 2020 list, and because it got A LOT of attention this year. What’s grabbing readers? Probably the fact that we have to stop thinking about inclusive leadership separately from great leadership. And that practicing it requires leaders to show seven key skills—on a daily basis.
Here’s the thing about personality tests: Everyone is intensely curious about them. After all, who doesn’t love to get insight into themselves, and why they do what they do? But they are often used incorrectly in the workplace, as was the center of an HBO documentary in early 2021. So it’s critical that learning professionals guide their workplaces to use these tests appropriately and without bias.
This year, DDI published our Global Leadership Forecast series, which included five full reports. And yes, there are a ton of insightful findings and graphics throughout the reports. But as our analysts took a look at the data, there were five key themes that seemed to transcend across the data.
Sometimes there’s nothing like getting back to the basics. This piece builds on DDI’s decades of experience helping leaders build delegation skills. But why is this evergreen skill so popular now? Delegation has become increasingly important as virtual and hybrid teams require leaders to show more trust to their teams. It’s also a critical factor when turnover is high, and multiple team members need to be cross-trained on work.
We’ve heard it from many of our clients over the years: They put together a fantastic learning journey with great content and amazing learning tools. But for some reason, it fell flat. Maybe stakeholders didn’t champion the program or leaders wouldn’t make it a priority. That’s why a solid implementation plan is just as critical to success as the learning journey design itself.
In an incredibly tough year, we’ve all had to learn to give each other a little more grace and empathy. And it’s even more important for teams that are no longer together in person and have to find new ways of connecting. So it’s no surprise that readers wanted to know more about how leaders can improve their emotional intelligence and connect with their teams.
Captain Obvious might as well have added this one to the list! 2021 has brought about a huge discussion around the nature of work itself. As the pandemic forced many companies to prolong their remote work policies, workers are now demanding more flexibility. At the same time, some executives struggle to see how their cultures can survive and thrive without in-person interaction. The result? A new obsession about the possibility of hybrid teams and how to make them work.
Echoing the popularity of our earlier blog on inclusion, many readers are looking for better information on how to be an ally at work. Why? A lot of people want to be allies and work toward a better and more equitable environment. But how do you actually show allyship? This piece gives you some practical tips.
What’s keeping CEOs up at night in 2021? Spoiler alert: it involves their people. Our Global Leadership Forecast series research lists out the top CEO challenges for this year and this blog identifies four key trends in leadership to help you stay ahead of these challenges.
2022 Is Going to Be All About the War for Talent
Of course, as we look back at articles over the year, those we published earlier have had more of a chance to gain traction over time. So we also want to take a look at where things are heading toward the end of the year, and what that means ahead for the coming year.
As I look at how traffic has trended toward the end of the year, a few additional pieces are standing out:
- Understanding Burnout Culture: 10 Ways Leaders Can Reduce Workplace Stress: While published in 2020, this piece has been big throughout 2021, and ramping up toward the end.
- Leadership and Employee Retention: How Leaders Can Have Great Retention Conversations: Traffic is growing rapidly as retention issues rise.
- Signs of Low Employee Engagement: In accord with the article above, as HR and leaders struggle with retention, it’s no surprise they’re trying to spot unengaged employees BEFORE they hand in their resignation.
- Understanding Great Behavioral Interviewing Questions: As companies need to hire new employees in droves, they are deeply interested in how to revamp their interviewing process.
The signs are clear that 2022 is going to be all about the talent war. Employees will have little tolerance for bad bosses, unsupportive policies, and jobs that don’t fit their career goals.
As a result, companies are going to have to step up their game—big time. They will need to transform their leadership in a major way to ensure they have an inclusive culture that leaves room for being human at work. They’ll need to create more flexible, worker-centric policies. And they will need to make sure they get it right when they hire people for open roles.
The Biggest Takeaway: Prepare Next-Gen Leaders
And above all? They'll need to focus on the next generation of leaders. Because today’s turnover rates are about to become tomorrow’s major leadership problem. Companies that fail to address it now may never be able to catch up.
Want to future-proof your leadership development plans in 2022? Learn more about DDI’s leadership development subscription.
Beth Almes is manager of marketing and communications at DDI. When she's not busy writing and editing, you'll most likely find her cooking up a storm with a spatula in hand.