New Leadership Skills for the New World



  • Being an agile and curious learner (2:20)

  • Being fully present when engaging with others (4:25)

  • Creating a free-range environment to encourage innovation (6:15)

  • Modeling clear communication (8:00)

  • Operating with situational trust (10:50)

  • Not taking things personally (14:05)

  • 4 steps to adopting these new leadership competencies (16:00)


Are you consciously building the following leadership skills? Check them out and then follow the action steps at the end of the article to begin building these critical competencies. You can also download the free worksheet to guide you through the process.


Innovation and communication are moving faster than we can even comprehend. What is true at 9:00 a.m. could be completely different by noon.

The strategic plan we created in November could be made obsolete just a few months later. Any number of positive or negative impacts ­– whether subtle or large-scale – can change the landscape and shift the direction and velocity of your team, department, or entire organization in an instant.

  • A simple legislative change,

  • An economic change,

  • An industry scandal,

  • A new innovation, and/or

  • A specialized talent leaves or comes on board.

In the past, leaders were expected to be experts, but today’s leader needs to be an agile learner and curious listener who expects that change is always afoot, falls in love with the possibilities change presents, and can ride with change rather than be put off guard by it.


Leaders who still believe that “throwing money at it” will retain their best talent are sadly mistaken. In the past, it was easy to retain employees with more money, but today’s employees aren’t satisfied simply by money.

With today’s scarcity of talent and unemployment at an all-time low, quality employees can easily negotiate a larger salary elsewhere. Loyalty and commitment are fostered in workplaces where employees feel seen and heard.

The leader that dedicates uninterrupted and undistracted time to engage with employees one-to-one will gain the loyalty of their staff. That means no multi-tasking, no cell phones, relaxed body, eye contact, and exhibiting a curious mind at meetings and check-ins.

Leaders who prioritize, model, and foster a norm of connection and engagement will not be at risk of losing their best performers to organizations that do.


Successful leaders will become comfortable with their employees dedicating some time to the exploration of new ideas and new ways of doing, innovating, and creating rather executing tasks in the same old way.

A free-range environment is not one of chaos or lacking structure, but one where employees:

  • Understand the goals,

  • Are clear on the strategic plan,

  • Willingly commit time to building their skills,

  • Uncover new ways of doing,

  • Make trial attempts and learn from missteps,

  • Have the courage to be vulnerable, and

  • Are clear about their strengths.

In a free-range environment, the traditional annual performance evaluation is obsolete. Check-ins happen frequently, and supervisors employ coaching to empower their reports to come up with solutions, ask for support and feedback, and proactively bring forward issues or concerns.


The effective leaders of today know that controlling and empowering are not mutually exclusive, an either/or. They understand that, instead, control is on a continuum and the degree of control you exercise depends on many factors.

They also know that to gain the trust of your team as you move along the continuum, you must communicate where you are along it, and why. Some situations require that leadership fully takes control, calls the shots, and makes the hard decisions, while other situations are best served by many voices and sharing the decision-making.

Use your voice to clearly indicate the parameters of decision-making for each situation – along with the context or why – to foster trust and alleviate resentment. Make it a practice to use consistent language to clearly set expectations for how each important decision will be made and the role others have in that process. For example—

  • “This is a decision I am informing you about, and you will then carry out with your teams,” or

  • “This is a discussion. I am seeking your opinions, concerns, and feedback first, then I will let you know when I make a decision,” or

  • “This is a decision that we will make together. After we all share our perspectives, we will vote with a focus on what is in the best interest of the whole.”


The days of blanket trust are over, and the days of being someone who is generally untrusting are gone as well. If you operate in only one or the other of these states, you are outdated. In today’s world, trust is less clear-cut.

Practice the degree to which you receive and extend trust situationally. As an example, I may trust a colleague not to steal my wallet, but may not be sure if I can trust them to get a time-sensitive proposal delivered by the deadline. The question for the latter becomes: So, what parts of getting the proposal completed and delivered can I fully trust, partially trust, or have no trust?

The development of trust with someone is more dependent on awareness of self than on understanding the other person. Still, building trust requires dialogue and discussion.

The exploration for working on trust begins with asking yourself the question: “Where in this situation am I comfortable extending full trust, some trust, or no trust?” and then having a conversation with the person about each of those components and how communication can be fostered that will alleviate concerns.

Break it down and then communicate clearly what kind of interaction you expect for each step. Let the person know that it isn’t about them or their ability, it is about the two of you learning together and building a foundation for trust.

Through this intentional process, trust will grow and expand. Every successful step and engagement will increase the mutual comfort zone of trust.


As you build your skills for cultivating an environment sought out by our new world’s best employees, you will also need to increase your self-awareness around what is personal and what is not.

Sometimes you may feel vulnerable. Your ego may be tempted to interpret an employee’s expression of concerns as a personal attack on your ability or decision-making. In a free-range work environment, you may feel you are losing control or authority.

In those situations, it is easy to get triggered and react with anger, defensiveness or simply shut down. And that’s okay. You are human, and you are practicing new skills.

In those moments, remember exactly that: You’re human, and having a natural, normal response to being triggered. Your body’s natural reaction is to act to protect yourself, and the tools it employs to do that are either fighting (defending, blaming or attacking) or fleeing (shutting down, withholding or leaving). Fascinating!

Now, are you ready to take action?


Step 1: What is your objection, issue, or concern?

Review the six leadership behavioral competencies listed above, and write down any objections, issues, and concerns that pop up in your mind as you consider each one.

Step 2: How does that concern serve you?

Next to or after each concern, write down how holding on to that objection, issue, concern, or fear serves you or protects you. This step may not be easy, as it requires complete honesty to write the first thought that appears in your mind. Be open to what comes up for you.


  • If I hold on to my expert status instead of being curious, I won’t appear vulnerable in front of my team.

  • By not being fully present with each employee, I don’t have to risk caring about them, which could make me less objective when making business decisions.

  • Creating a free-range work environment may cause me to lose control to the extent that the organization fails.

Step 3: What would be different if you never have that concern again?

For each of your concerns, imagine what would be different in terms of your personal success, your organization’s or team’s success, and your stress level if you could magically never have this concern or fear again. Write those next to or after each concern.

Step 4: What small action could I choose to practice?

Now that you are aware of your concerns, how they serve or protect you, and how your work and your life would be changed – and improved – if those concerns were no longer an issue, you are ready to create tiny action steps for each behavioral competency.

These tiny action steps are new practices that you will test, play with, and try out, and then notice what shifts or changes, both within you and within your team.

It’s important to start small, that way you can increase your comfort with letting go of what you perceive is serving you with your old way of leading. Too large an action can push you into a panic and create resistance around the changes you want to make.

It’s also important to acknowledge each time you experience even a tiny bit of success – sit with it. Then continue doing your small practices and notice how your comfort zone expands.

As with any new skill or practice, in the beginning, it will feel uncomfortable and maybe even sloppy – and that’s okay. This is a process that builds sustainability.


  • Being Fully Present: The next time I meet with someone, I will turn off my phone, shut my door against outside distractions, and sit in a relaxed way. I will be completely engaged with them and listen as I want to be heard.

  • Situational Trust: The next time I have a task that someone else can do but I hold onto because I don’t trust anyone to do it as well as I would, I will have a discussion about levels of trust and expectations. We will establish a schedule of communication and a review process that will help me build trust and feel comfortable.

These are examples of simple, tiny steps that you can practice here and there to get a sense of what feels different. And over time, with commitment and consistent practice of your own small action steps, you’ll begin to notice that they are coming naturally to you.



We are in a place where the most skillful leaders are those who are willing to look at their own competencies as well as those of their teams.

Are you ready to start engaging in this whole new way?

Much of what we’re talking about here is work that gets done in my Navigating Challenging Dialogue Skills Training and Navigating Challenging Dialogue Certified Trainer workshop.

If building your leadership competencies and skills is important to you, if it’s intriguing, and if you’re curious, reach out to us. Contact us online, give us a call at (916) 436-5299 or go to to see how you can get involved in this movement for the new leadership that the world needs going forward.