5 Essential Leadership Skills Needed in 2022

Updated: 25 Jan, 2022 | Bill Peatman

Executive leadership is crucial for business success in 2022. With four million people leaving their jobs each month, employees are voting with their feet to show their reactions to poor or indifferent management. Keeping your high-performing employees engaged, productive, and growing are keys to success. Let's look at the 5 leadership skills you will need to keep your team together and race ahead of the competition in 2022.

1. Empathy 

Health and wellness took center stage for employees and managers in 2020-2021. There is no indication that this will change in 2022. The multiple shocks and disruptions caused by the pandemic, election, and social unrest rocked the workplace. Consider these numbers: 

  • 95 percent of employees are thinking about leaving their jobs
  • Burnout consistently ranks as the top reason for quitting

The good news is that you do not have to solve your employees' health and wellness challenges. But you need to be empathetic.

Empathy is "connecting with others to identify and understand their thoughts, perspectives, and emotion," according to the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The multiple crises of 2020-2021 took a toll on employees' mental health, with isolation from friends, family, and coworkers key contributors to stress. Seventy-six percent of employees with empathetic leaders are "always" engaged in their work.

Empathy does not come naturally to everyone. With remote work extended in many regions, it is critical to keep an open-door policy, stay connected, and listen to employees' concerns about themselves, their families, and work.

2. Listening

You cannot lead with empathy if you do not listen to your employees. The Harvard Business Review makes a case for listening in a recent article: "Want fewer employees to quit? Listen to them." The publication's survey of 27,000 employees found that 62 percent of employees at companies that repeatedly ask for feedback recommend their company to others.

Here are some methods of listening to employees: 

  • Conduct short, topic-specific "pulse surveys" around job satisfaction, wellness, and other concerns.
  • Use annual or semiannual employee engagement surveys.
  • Create a chat channel where employees can anonymously provide feedback 24/7.

3. Delegating 

Your employees want you to delegate tasks to them. It shows them that you trust them and adds to their sense of belonging, boosting engagement and retention. Effective delegation is more than just assigning tasks. It is setting people up for success and growth in your company. Delegating responsibilities is also the best way to build new skills—far more efficient than hiring new employees.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), keys to effective delegation include:

  1. Delegating the appropriate work to the right person.
  2. Providing any training and context they need.
  3. Create a clear, documented workflow.
  4. Agree on the definition of success.
  5. Schedule frequent check-ins at first so that the employees don’t flounder.
  6. Provide feedback without judgment when mistakes happen.

Great leaders delegate. They want to find people better than them at work that is not in their domain. Delegation is also a skill that many leaders struggle with, mainly because they do not trust others to bring the same effort and quality to tasks. But it is that trust that employees most want, which makes them secure and happy on your team.

4. Learning 

A complement to delegation is learning. When you delegate responsibilities, you need to give employees the resources they need to learn and grow. Some 94 percent of workers told LinkedIn they would stay at a company that invests in their professional development. That number may be higher now, as many employees say they are quitting due to what they see as stalled careers. A Citrix study found that 88 percent of workers said learning and growth opportunity is what they look for in an employer.

Learning is not just about keeping employees happy; it is about keeping your company growing. Citrix also found that 82 of employees and 62 percent of HR directors believe that workers will need to reskill or upskill at least once a year to maintain a competitive advantage in a global job market.

Ways you can lead your teams' learning efforts include:

  • Offer learning stipends employees can use to fund learning opportunities.
  • Providing access to Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Udemy or LinkedIn Learning.
  • Offer tuition assistance programs (you can deduct $5250 per employee per year).
  • Create learning incentive programs and contests.

5. Recognition 

Recognition is one of the most effective and underused leadership skills. First, let's look at the power of positive feedback. Here is how recognition impacts productivity, engagement, and retention:

  • Employees that receive one piece of praise per day are 30 percent more productive.
  • 90 percent of workers say they work harder when they receive positive recognition.
  • Recognition has the highest impact on employee engagement—30 percent more than a higher salary.
  • Lack of credit is the number one reason employees leave their jobs.

Yet, "Only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work," a Gallup poll found. "Further, employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year."

So, to summarize:

  • Recognition has the highest impact on employee engagement.
  • Lack of positive feedback is the number one reason employees leave their jobs.

Recognition can be a managerial superpower. Gallup found that the recognition employees value most is positive public feedback from their direct manager, closely followed by feedback from the CEO/owner. That does not cost you a penny. Other popular ways of recognizing top performers include: 

  • Cash bonuses
  • Plaques or certificates
  • Extra time off 
  • Paid trips
  • Gift certificates

Lead with Empathy in 2022

You could make the case that all the skills listed here are subsets of empathy. Listening, delegation, learning, and recognition all have to do with understanding and responding to your employees' status and concerns, and all involve working to understand them better.

You notice some traditional managerial skills like planning, budgeting, and performance management are not listed. It is not that these skills are not essential. It is just that they are not as important right now as communication skills that will keep your team together and engaged in an environment of constant change.

About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.

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