Leadership Challenges for 2021

As 2021 continues to move forward, the economy and COVID-19 vaccine rollout has started to gain steam. With a new normal continuing to evolve, businesses and organizations are now in the process of bringing employees back onsite to their physical work locations, as well as evolving their Work From Home (WFH) and hybrid work model.

Creating a new normal, though, comes with new obstacles. Talking with business leaders across all sectors and industries, there are common leadership themes and challenges that have emerged. A few of these leadership challenges include employee wellbeing, remote work, DEI, digital transformation / AI, and leadership and talent.

Employee Wellbeing

COVID-19 has affected people in a number of different ways, one of those being mental health. As organizations move forward, there is a strong focus on supporting employees with solutions to improve mental health and reduce burnout, such as work-life integration, flexible work hours, and wellness programs added into employee benefits.

Remote Work

Remote work is here to stay—why? Because of organizational cost savings, there’s higher employee satisfaction with more flexible work options. In addition, remote work options mean organizations have a wider pool of skilled, talented applicants. According to a recent study by Pew Research, more than half of employed adults who said their job responsibilities can mostly be done from home (54%) also noted that if they had a choice, they would want to work from home all or most of the time when the pandemic is over.

However, 51% of CEOs recently identified “working well remotely” as a top hurdle for their teams, and companies recognize this is a challenge that leaders will continue to face. It is, though, a challenge that leaders must master to be successful in the future. The biggest question I continue to hear from business leaders is how will I create or re-create our special workplace culture in a hybrid work model

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been top of mind for a number of years, but it has come into closer focus with recent events taking place in our communities. Recent articles have highlighted data from the Global Leadership Forecast showing that a significant business advantage is more leadership diversity. Companies with above-average gender and racial/ethnic diversity in leadership roles are eight times more likely to be in the top 10% of organizations for financial performance.

Digital Transformation and AI

Artificial Intelligence has also been a top topic of the past few years and COVID has accelerated that trend as well. The need for in-person and manual processes has changed and will continue to do so, however, you should not automate or implement new digital tools for an incomplete or poor existing process. Companies need leaders with strong digital acumen, but they also need leaders who can guide decisions about how to best use new technologies.

Leadership and Talent

In addition to the above challenges, leadership and talent remains a major challenge for organizations. What did we learn in 2020? Leaders must continually learn and reinvent themselves. We learned the importance of empathy, adaptability, communication, and soft skills and that a collaborative and creative work environment builds employee productivity, retention, and fosters mutual respect for all.

As 2021 progresses, we hear daily about GDP or economic growth estimates of ~6%, as well as a projected 12% growth rate in staffing according to an April 2021 Staffing Industry Analysts study. As business leaders, get ahead of the curve and reach out to Aureus Group today! Let us partner with you to reach your goals; we have talent available both on a contract or direct hire basis. Reach out now!


Mark Mueller

Mark is a seasoned business executive with more than 25 years of experience. He has a strong background in financial and business operations management with a passion for business results, leadership, and achieving goals in a collaborative team environment. Mark personally leverages his Gallup Strengths: Context, Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, and Consistency. Mark is excited to bring you the Aureus Group portfolio of staffing/recruiting programs including project staffing, direct hire, interim executives, and retained search. Mark has a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Business Administration from Loras College in Dubuque, IA. Mark also earned an MBA from the University of Rochester William E Simon School of Business located in Rochester, NY.

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