Management trends for 2023: Power skills for leaders

Business leaders hoping for a spell of calm and stability after COVID-19 have instead been forced to confront a new round of challenges. In 2023, they will again be working in an atmosphere of uncertainty.

The ongoing war in Ukraine is likely to make energy prices unpredictable for the foreseeable future. This is contributing to rising inflation and consequently tightening interest rates that impact not only borrowing for businesses worldwide but also the cost of living for their employees and customers. At the same time, the collapse in the prices of tech stocks and newsworthy layoffs in major tech companies are generating a sense that the industry, previously a driver of growth in many major economies, is itself entering a recession.

To thrive as a leader in 2023s turbulent new reality, it is important to embrace the enduring power of honest and human values. By being authentic and working together with others, you can empower them to transcend the noise of 2023 and find ways to learn, grow and reach your shared goals.

In this look at the best management trends in 2023, IESE professors and experts identify the power skills for leaders that will help you, your teams and your company move forward.

4 essential power skills for managers in 2023

Power skills are leadership ability multipliers: real-world tools that can help people work together, work happier and work better. Power skills can also be subtle, having small but meaningful effects that lead to big improvements for teams.

In this article, IESE professors have used their expertise and experience to select four values-based power skills —negotiation, playfulness, fostering a shared reality and boosting decision-making — that can make a difference in 2023.

1. Negotiation: The power of creating value

“We need to rediscover the counterpart, the other, and how to build a new world together.”

Guido Stein, IESE Professor.

Negotiation is widely recognized as a useful component of every leader’s toolbox but, says IESE Professor of Leadership Guido Stein, it is often overlooked as “only” a soft skill — when in truth it is a core skill. Stein believes that everyone facing problems and having to make leadership decisions should have the negotiator’s attitude of seeking to overcome obstacles and create something positive by working with the other party.

“We negotiate because we need the other party to cut a deal. We negotiate because we need them to make a decision. And we negotiate to create value,” says Stein.

According to Stein, negotiation goes back and forth from collaborating to competing depending on the circumstances but it always depends on human relationships. Amid the geopolitical and economic difficulties of 2023 and after the suffering of the Covid pandemic, Stein says it is time for leaders to use negotiation not only to increase the “slice of the pie” for their own side but also to “bake a bigger pie”.

Negotiation, in his opinion, is a shortcut to achieving the problems we face by creating connections with others, establishing common ground and strengthening relationships to create mutual value. This is never truer than in 2023.

“After the tough times we have suffered since the pandemic,” says Stein, “we need to rediscover the counterpart, the other, and how to build a new world together.”

2. Playfulness: The power of engagement

A playful attitude at work doesn’t mean you’re not serious about getting results. In fact, it’s the opposite: a playful attitude can unlock better results.

Prof. Mireia Las Heras of IESE’s Leadership Department believes that playfulness means being truly, proactively involved — being more than a spectator. It also means competing — but against yourself not against other people. A playful leader understands that although sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t, you can always try to be better, faster or more creative, celebrating successes and re-evaluating failures with acceptance.

From a management perspective, a playful leader fosters the same spirit of engagement and creative improvement in others. That attitude has wide-ranging benefits including increased flow, lower stress and more creative synergies in work collaborations — all especially important in 2023.

“We are coming out of a long time of a stress. With the pandemic, high inflation, the war and so many other things, we want to make decisions that actually allow us to have a better job experience,” adds Las Heras.

3. Shared reality: The power of belonging

“It’s more important than ever to figure out how can we think together even as we work apart. Social bonds are the glue that hold organizations together.”

Maya Rossignac-Milon, IESE professor.

Arianna Huffington once described her relationship with her Huffington Post co-founder as “finishing each other’s sentences”. That ability to be on the same wavelength paved the way for the success of their business.

The experience of having the same thoughts and feelings as another person about the world around you, says Prof. Maya Rossignac-Milon of IESE’s managing people department, is known as a “shared reality” and fostering it is an essential power skill for 2023.

Colleagues who share realities — for example, thinking the same way about a project — have been shown to feel more engaged, perform better, and be less likely to burn out, which improves talent retention.

For leaders to bolster this synchronous thinking among their teams, Rossignac-Milon suggests creating rituals in the workplace. This could be something simple like creating a shared Spotify playlist or playing a game at the start of meetings. Another way to is to create shared physical or online spaces, such as Slack channels, where likeminded people with mutual interests can connect.

“In a workplace where many people are working remotely, or in hybrid environments where they feel physically disconnected from each other, it’s more important than ever to figure out how can we think together even as we work apart,” says Rossignac-Milon.

Fostering connectedness and shared realities in the divisive and stressful world of 2023, especially when communication is largely online, is essential for companies.

“Social bonds are the glue that hold organizations together. So if leaders can allow human connections to thrive in this way, that’s the next stage of leadership.”

4. Decision-making: The power of boosting

We all want people to make good, autonomous decisions but sometimes it’s difficult. People make mistakes. They systematically deviate from what we deem to be good decisions. What can we do about this? Should we prevent them making those decisions? Should we manipulate or nudge them toward making the decisions we think are best?

According to Sebastian Hafenbrädl, IESE assistant professor of managing people in organizations, “boosting” is the way forward for 2023, a year where the economic outlook is, he says, “a bit bumpy.”

“When the going gets rough,” says Hafenbrädl, “good decisions are particularly needed.”

In this context, boosting means fostering competence: identifying the skills or knowledge people lack then making a targeted intervention to help them develop competence instead of intervening in their decision-making.

This is important for society but it is also important for companies to perform. “In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment where information is distributed things and change fast, we want more eyes on the ball,” says Hafenbrädl. A hierarchical structure in which the CEO does strategy and everyone else simply executes is not optimal here. Instead, everyone should be involved in searching for the organization’s future strategic direction and be capable of making good decisions on their own.

If an individual only lacks one or two competencies to do this then we should ask ourselves how we, as managers, can identify them, foster them or change the environment to make it easier for people to acquire them. This is the boosting approach for 2023.

 

IESE Business School believes that leadership is based on real human values. The four power skills presented here embody that understanding — helping you to center people and their development in order to support your shared goals.

Learn more about how IESE programs and masters foster leadership for companies and executives at every career stage.

 

Don’t miss the full video. Interviews with IESE professors about the 4 power skills for 2023.

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