Five Business Trends that will likely dominate the leadership agenda in 2024
Business Trend #1 Artificial Intelligence: the future is now.
Due to its numerous applications and benefits, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has become increasingly important in the modern world. It is quickly changing how we live, for better or worse.
Some of AI’s benefits include efficiency and productivity improvements, automation of repetitive tasks and processes, personalised recommendations, and predictive analytics. Artificial Intelligence can potentially transform and revolutionise several industries, including healthcare, transportation, finance, and education. But at what cost, if any?
Concerns about AI’s negative impact on society exist. For example, job displacement creates economic disruption and social instability, particularly for workers in low-skilled jobs. AI can pose serious privacy, security, and ethical concerns if not managed carefully.
The key for leaders will be deciding how to apply AI in their businesses ethically. The absence of processes for monitoring algorithms and explaining the findings of those algorithms coherently could lead to a lack of transparency for how and why AI came to its conclusions. This could result in biased or unsafe decisions or a lack of accountability in the decision-making process.
As with any new technology, leaders must establish standards which determine acceptable AI usage, interpretation, and ownership. When introducing AI into their business, leaders must recognise it as an accepted part of their company culture, and like all elements of culture, it starts at the top.
Business Trend #2 Emotional Intelligence: an essential leadership skill.
IQ (intelligence quotient) is a common term representing various measures of mental Intelligence. On the other hand, EQ (emotional quotient) measures a person’s level of emotional Intelligence. It focuses on a person’s ability to perceive, control, evaluate, and express emotions, including assessing and perceiving how others feel.
Leaders set the tone of their organisation, and emotionally intelligent leaders are skilled at helping their employees feel heard and valued. They are better at leading their teams, creating engaging, supportive work environments where employees perform well and handling high-pressure conflict situations where emotions could direct behaviour.
Emotional Intelligence is the most critical of all the skills leaders can deploy in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. Crises can and will emerge in many forms, often striking without warning. While many leaders have formulated contingency plans to ‘manage’ crises, most of these plans omit the intelligent handling of emotions. An emotionally intelligent leader will handle any crisis, big or small, better than someone without emotional intelligence competencies.
Technical skills and qualifications are hard skills that make a leader stand out in their chosen field, but ultimately, emotional Intelligence, a soft skill, makes a leader stand out from their peers.
Business Trend #3 The Customer Experience Revolution: Make it Purposeful
An experience revolution is now underway, compelling leaders to own and manage the delivery of exceptional experiences. Each touchpoint along the customer journey must be effortless, intuitive, personalised, and instant.
Many business leaders claim that the customer is central to their thinking and behaviour, but when asked the simple question, ‘Is there a specific leader responsible for customer experience in your business?’, the response is often a resounding ‘NO’. Words and actions are often misaligned.
Business leaders must actively build and create a culture and environment where the customer IS the epicentre of how the entire business thinks, feels and acts. ‘Customer Service’ isn’t just a department; it should be the whole business. Customer experience isn’t a project or focus group; it’s a purpose.
There is a direct correlation between the consistency of external customer experience and the quality of the interactions and engagement between colleagues, functions, and departments. Whatever service experience your people provide internally for their colleagues, you can bet they replicate that same experience for your customers. Experience benchmarks are fluid, and if the bar is set low for internal interactions, it becomes a big mountain to climb to create exceptional external interactions.
Positioning service aptitude – a person’s ability to recognise opportunities to meet and exceed customers’ expectations, regardless of the circumstances – as the epicentre of how a business thinks, feels, and acts will naturally shift leaders’ focus from competing on price and products to competing on experience.
Business Trend #4 Rise of the Data Economy: Data-Driven Decision-Making
Data and real-time insight are a leaders’ competitive advantage. Measuring the right things at the right time allows leaders to make proactive, informed, empirically validated decisions which deliver efficient, sustained, and profitable business growth. Decision-making is based on data and facts rather than opinions and emotions.
A defining characteristic of the data economy leader is their superior ability to use data to advance the business’s strategic goals and, therefore, fully realise the value of their data. Data-driven insights are how leaders navigate the rapidly changing market. They are how leaders lay down a foundation for long-term success. They are how leaders validate their decisions. If data insights highlight inefficiencies in a go-to-market strategy or point to a resizing of a chosen target market or even a pivot in strategy, leaders have in their arsenal the ability to interpret, analyse and apply insightful data.
For any business leader, data-driven decision-making happens when data is transformed into insights, trends, and foresight, which become actionable. Only then does data achieve its real value.
Business Trend #5 Resilience, Agility, Relevance: Preparing for an uncertain future.
The external marketplace and the business arena are constantly changing, and as we know, the old rule book no longer applies. Changing dynamics in competitors, the digital revolution, new role definitions, and modern regulatory frameworks supported by new legislation have redefined the requirement for businesses and leaders to be resilient, agile, and relevant.
A pivotal moment of self-discovery happens when a leadership team realise they are going backwards just by standing still. In today’s business landscape, leadership thinking must accelerate as fast as the pace of change around us; a leader’s ability to learn has become an essential skill. Learn how to be resilient, learn how to be agile, and learn how to remain relevant.
Standing firm against change and disruption demonstrates resilience. Adjusting strategy and operations in response to the business environment shows agility. Having the foresight to adapt and evolve shows relevance.
Today’s leaders must monitor, assess, and reflect on how and why the competitive landscape is changing and the causal factors underlying that change. It is imperative that they act based on that analysis. Preparing for an uncertain future requires resilience, agility, and relevance in action.