It’s been a busy summer so far.

I’ve been delivering a lot of talks and keynotes lately. As I engage with more leaders across multiple sectors, one of the topics that keeps getting requested is my “Leading Below the Surface: Becoming the Leader the Future Demands” keynote – which I also just covered in the second episode of Change Coaches’ brand new podcast!

There is so much change going on in the world that affects the workplace: burnout in high numbers, the introduction of AI, a challenging economic landscape — not to mention the recent supreme court anti-affirmative action, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-student loan repayment decisions. People always want to know about the “special sauce,” the “secret ingredient” to staying competitive in a rapidly-changing business landscape. But the truth is, it’s just not that simple. What are the leadership skills you need to stay relevant and future-proof your company?

Fortunately, there are plenty of hints out there that point to where things are headed. These are the three that I find most important:

1) Belonging is something employees are demanding.

During the Great Resignation, many organizations pursued extensive research efforts to try and understand why so many people were leaving their jobs. One of the greatest factors identified was belonging. 54% of employees who left a job did not feel valued by their organization, and 51% left because they didn’t feel a sense of belonging. In hindsight, it’s very clear that employees require greater cohesion, a sense of connection, and to feel seen and appreciated.

Belonging is also the #1 predictor of employee engagement! Only 20% of employees who feel they don’t belong are engaged, versus 91% of those who feel they do – that’s three and a half times more. Employees who feel they belong are more likely to feel a sense of well-being and take fewer sick days. If those stats aren’t enough to convince you that facilitating belonging in your workplace is a good idea, your employees will make their opinions known – by finding somewhere else to work.

Belonging and team effectiveness are a package deal, especially in diverse workplaces. Studies suggest that when diverse people spend time together and are treated fairly, they forge social bonds of belonging. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the workplace of the future that I want to build!

2) Today’s workplace requires a different type of leadership.

If you were to think of an old-school image of what a good leader should be like, you’d probably come up with adjectives like “strong” or “authoritative.” That’s what I was taught a “good leader” should be like – but that’s actually not what people want (and to be frank, it’s not what I want either).

Recent data shows that more people want empathy, curiosity, and respect from their leaders. This is especially true of Gen Z, who now make up 36% of the workforce. Gen Z employees consistently rank empathy as the #1 desired characteristic in a manager or leader, while most managers and leaders are still ranking it at #5 out of 5. The disconnect between employee desires and leadership traditions is still prevalent.

The model I find most helpful to describe the type of leader people want is REAL leadership. REAL leaders are Relatable, Equitable, Aware, and Loyal. They are curious about their employees, strive to relate to them, aware of the power structures and lived experiences that impact their employees at work, and they work to create an environment where their employees can share new ideas, make mistakes, and be creative without fear of reproach. I recently recorded a podcast on this topic so be sure to check that out and subscribe at

3) Creating psychological safety is powerful and necessary for today’s workplace.

Extensive research shows that when people feel psychologically safe (able to offer suggestions and make mistakes without being punished), they are more productive. The latest research on high-performing teams corroborates this. High-performing teams make a habit of leveraging social connectedness to allow everyone to share their best ideas and work more efficiently. I often discuss unbreakable structures and habits are a great example of these! On a high-performing team, you’re more likely to see colleagues bond over non-work-related topics, give and receive appreciation, and express a fuller range of emotions at work. And, when a structure is in place to keep that team high-performing, you have one less thing to worry about.

Psychological safety is even more important in a changing workplace with diverse employees, especially when there is generational diversity present. When a team is made up of folks from different backgrounds and generations, their “taken for granted” habits tend to clash, which can cause misunderstandings and frustration. Research shows that creating an environment where those employees can speak up with ideas, questions, and concerns makes teams more productive.

To optimize both psychological safety and team effectiveness, leaders need to reflect on their practices and skills to learn what they can do better. Coaching can be one great way to do this, since it encourages engagement and reflection on a whole new level. Change Coaches offers an assessment tool that comes with coaching for leaders to do just that.

From my perspective, these are the key trends to follow, but there are definitely others! Is there a trend you’ve noticed that I didn’t mention? Find me on LinkedIn and let me know!

And while you’re at it, check out the following resources – a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about these topics: