I’m a big believer in starting with the end in mind. Therefore let’s lay out, right up front, what you’ll be hearing from me over the next several months. In short, I’ll be talking about leadership, especially leadership for small to midmarket firms. In the leadership arena, things have changed massively from the 20th century. The COVID-19 virus is an extreme example of the kind of major challenges we anticipate for leadership in the next ten years.

Having written two other books on how to attract and retain talent, and with my next book, The Leadership Decade: A Playbook For An Extraordinary Era, coming out in August, I have been researching talent acquisition and retention for well over a decade. My research shows that small- to medium-size businesses, probably for the first time in history, have a tremendous opportunity to attract and retain talent like never before.

Prior to the global pandemic, businesses were in a tremendous war for talent when the unemployment rate was at a sustained sub 4%. Please do not make the mistake of believing this war for talent is over. In fact, it has only intensified, even with the record current high unemployment. Your top talent will become extremely attractive and will be recruited by other firms—that is a near certainty.

What will retain your top talent? How can you attract other top talent? In a word, leadership. Leadership is the key strategic differentiator for attracting and retaining talent in 2020. Most business leaders have bought into the concept that “people join companies and people quit people.“ If that is, in fact, true, then so is the opposite. People will stay at companies because of the people. The next generations of talent want to work for a strong leader and will remain extraordinarily loyal to organizations that provide strong leadership, development, coaching, and growth opportunities.

You’ll see me use the phrase “the leadership decade“ because the decade of the 2020s is a major tipping point, and leadership must finally make changes from Industrial Age methods of leadership to Information/Digital Age methodologies. Prior to COVID-19, businesses were in a tremendous  “tug-of-war” around management, supervision, and leadership. The tug-of-war consisted of a constant battle between 20th- and 21st-century leadership concepts. That tug-of-war is over, and the Digital Age won. 

Want a quick proof source? In December 2019, 4.7% of the American workforce telecommuted. In March 2020, 75 million American workers were working from home. Leadership 2020 needs to understand how to motivate a remote workforce, provide real-time feedback, career coaching, manage the metrics, and so much more. We have reached an inflection point, and there is no going back.

Over the next several months, I am excited to share these ideas with you, build on the knowledge gained from more than a decade of research and two prior books on the topic, and apply them in what is likely to be a decade of challenge and uncertainty. Teams, companies, and regions with the best talent usually win! I’m excited to be able to share this information with fellow chamber members, to build stronger businesses and a stronger region.

Over the next few installments, you will see how an investment in leadership increases productivity by as much as 800%, improves EBITA by more than 20%, and can provide an exponential return on investment for the shareholders. If you are a business owner or a shareholder of any kind, there is quite literally nothing that will provide a return on investment greater than developing a depth of leadership talent.

2020 is a major tipping point for businesses and business leaders. Within every challenge lies an opportunity, and leaders who embrace this change will, in fact, come out stronger than ever. 

Adapted from our best-selling book, The Leadership Decade: A Playbook for an Extraordinary Era. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please visit s21.us/tldbook for a hardback book or s21.us/tldebook for an ebook. For even more information, check out theleadershipdecade.com.