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10 Hot Leadership Topics for 2016

By Tacy Byham, Ph.D.

Tacy ByhamAs we move into a new year, we asked ourselves—what new trends are emerging in leadership and HR in 2016, and what do we need to know about them?

My colleagues at DDI and I like analytics, so we decided to research HR and leadership trends via a data-based approach in three steps. First, we identified the top 20 leadership/HR social media influencers on Twitter who have both a strong content focus and a sizable following (at least 10,000 followers, but more than 20,000 in most cases). Second, we analyzed their tweets from the end of 2015 and identified the words they tweeted the most. Check out the word cloud of these most common topics.

10 Hot Leadership Topics for 2016

Finally, we picked nine of the HR and Leadership topics from the cloud and asked DDI scientists and social media influencers to comment on what these could mean for leaders and the workplace in 2016.

2015 End-of-Year Topics 2016 Leadership Topics
Leadership Catalyst Leaders
Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., DDI CEO
“Technology is only making leadership with excellent social skills more important. As such, we need a new type of leader in 2016—a catalyst leader. Catalyst leaders represent the gold standard—energetic, supportive, forward-thinking mentors who spark action in others. And, to accomplish this, they live in an emotion-laden, interaction-filled world. They don’t hide behind a keyboard solving problems, but instead connect with their teams by listening (really listening) to their challenges and showing empathy. This builds trust, shows respect and results in innovation and productivity. A leader’s future success will depend on his/her ability to become one.” @TacyByham
HR Evolution HR Payoff
Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., DDI Senior Vice President
"I can't believe that analytics received relatively low attention. In my opinion, there is no bigger trend impacting the function and our role. The very reason the HBR article is titled "Why We Love to Hate HR and What HR Can Do About It" is because we simply invest millions with little accountability for proof. The tools and methodologies are available to all of us to move from poof to proof. Which sort of training really pays off? Who is the very best team to launch a new product? What leadership experiences have the greatest payoff? These are just some of the dozens of questions we can begin to answer. All that's missing: motivation and skills!” @RichWellins
Data Data Guardians
Evan Sinar, Ph.D., DDI Chief Scientist and Director of CABER
“As businesses escalate their adoption of employee-focused Big Data, analytics and wearable devices, leaders will be forced to step up to a new role for which few are prepared. Leaders must break their silence and intervene to become Data Guardians and Data Stewards on behalf of the workforce. If left unchecked, the severe consequences for employee trust, well-being, and retention stemming from inaccurate and misleading employee data will worsen in 2016. Only proactive, data-savvy leaders will have the know-how and credibility to make sure every data point gathered from or about their employees is truthful, meaningful, and fair.” @EvanSinar
HR Tech Harness HR Tech
Barry Stern, Ph.D., DDI Senior Vice President, Accelerated Development Solutions
“It’s an amazing time! HR Technology is THE enzyme acting upon both our imagination and our marketplace. Data visualization and predictive analytics, coupled with the focus on curation, social, video, and mobile are reshaping our mission and amplifying our potential for impact. We are rediscovering and recasting the importance of the user/learner experience. We are limited only by our creativity and intellect in reshaping our interventions. Harnessing these forces in a way that creates meaning and purpose for our constituents and companies is the challenge. Get it right and the possibilities feel almost limitless.” @Barster1
Diversity Diversity Outperforms
Stephanie Neal, DDI Research Consultant, CABER
“The increased focus on diversity in the workplace this past year has been unprecedented, likely due to the overwhelming body of evidence demonstrating that organizations with more diverse teams outperform their less-diverse counterparts. It will become an even stronger priority for organizations in 2016 that look to diversity in all forms as a valuable source to drive innovation and business growth. Recruiting more diverse sources of talent into leadership programs and positions across an organization will be a good start, but to make a real impact it must be paired with openness to different ideas, perspectives and experiences at all levels.” @StephanieNeal_
Acquisition Right People Right Roles
Mark Busine, DDI Managing Director, Australia
“In recent years we have seen significant development in the area of sourcing. The advent of technology tools, and social media have enabled organisations to expand their range of sourcing options. And in many cases, drive more effective and efficient recruitment approaches. But the focus on sourcing has not been matched by a similar focus on effective selection (assessment).

Most studies (including our own) suggest the most common reasons for hiring mistakes all have to do with selection. Things like: Too much reliance on a hiring manager’s evaluation; insufficient data/insight to make a decision; candidates over-promising on their capabilities; and hiring managers ignoring the information that was in front of them. As organisations continue to transform, talent acquisition (internal and external) will be key to getting the right people in the right roles. The key is turning selection data into insights linked to organisation and role priorities. All the training in the world won’t make up for a poor talent acquisition decision.
Change Fearless Change
Simon Mitchell, DDI UK General Manager,
“Against a backdrop of an increasingly disrupted world, organisations are told “innovate or die”. Except, organisations cannot innovate—only people can. And, people are emotional creatures that balance risk with reward. The fear of losing something is more powerful than the fear of gaining something and without strong effort, the organisational need for change will be trumped by the people that need safety and security. The two cannot go hand in hand. How people are rewarded, what you celebrate and how you reward failure will determine whether a culture of lasting change will become part of your future modus operandi.” @simitchlondon
Engagement Engagement Imperative
Jill George, DDI Director, Manufacturing Practice
Despite the evolution of automation, digitalization, and supply chain complexity within the manufacturing arena, it is increasingly obvious that the variance between high and low performing operations falls increasingly in one area: talent quality and engagement. Manufacturers who realize engagement is key to capturing productivity gains, reducing costs, and retaining hard-to-find talent will seize revenue and profits in 2016. Engagement is now not just table stakes, it’s a strategic imperative.” @JillGeorgeDDI
Culture Culture Flex
Viola Mueller-Thuns, DDI Germany, Marketing
“Millennials will account for nearly half the global workforce by 2020; in some companies they already constitute a majority. Accelerated career paths, diversity and a vivid feedback culture are the driving forces of this new generation. Successful organizations have to build a culture which reflects their work expectations. Leaders have to act as coaches enabling team success and individual growth. Performance management has to enable the natural entrepreneurship of people. New technologies have to support co-working space and telecommuting and hence the demand for flexibility. This will add to a culture which is irresistible and hard to leave (for top performers).” @VMThuns

With the phrase “Happy New Year” all around us, there is a tenth trend word that we would add to the list: “Happy.” Of course, creating a happy work environment is good for the mind and spirt, but it also encourages smart risk-taking and creativity and makes for healthier employees all around. Each and every one of us has the ability to influence the climate of our work environments and level of “happiness” experienced each day.

Please, let me know what you think the new year holds for your role in your organization. Tweet me back with the topic words (from the list, or others) you see impacting your work! I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to a productive and ‘Happy’ workplace and New Year!


20 Leadership/HR social influencers on Twitter used as part of this investigation:

@EvanSinar – Evan Sinar
@williamtincup – William Tincup
@meghanmbiro – Meghan M. Biro
@SteveGutzler – Steve Gutzler
@sbrownehr – Steve Browne
@StacyZapar – Stacy Zapar
@SteveBoese – Steve Boese
@AbhijitBhaduri – Abhijit Bhaduri
@LollyDaskal – Lolly Daskal
@trishmcfarlane – Trish McFarlane
@chinaGorman – China Gorman
@Josh_Bersin – Josh Bersin
@Timsackett – Tim Sackett
@JenniferMcClure – Jennifer McClure
@Iruettimann – Laurie Ruettimann
@humanworkplace – Liz Ryan
@stelzner – Mark Stelzner
@RealEvilHRLady – Suzanne Lucas
@erikaandersen  – Erika Andersen
@JohnMaxwellTeam – John Maxwell

Tacy Byham, Ph.D. is DDI's Chief Executive Officer.

Posted: 18 Jan, 2016,
Talk to an Expert: 10 Hot Leadership Topics for 2016
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