The world is always changing. As it does, leaders at all levels need to be willing and able to change along with it. While there are some leadership principles that never change, other best practices and aspects of effective leadership have evolved over time as we’ve learned more about human behaviour and as society has shifted its priorities.  So, what does an effective leader in 2020 look like? The year has been full of hardships and events that have thrown leaders all over the world into unknown territory. Business leaders, for instance, have had to pivot to remote leadership quickly.  They’ve had to make do with fewer employees thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The strongest leaders have been able to rise to the challenge. They continue to effectively lead their teams through all the uncertainty 2020 has brought. Here are some of the traits they have in common.

Courage is key for effective leadership

Today’s world is complicated, and there are often no clear answers to difficult business questions. The effective leader in 2020 has to have the courage to take calculated risks and do what they feel is right.

Consumers expect companies to have clear values and to be a force for good in the world. Today’s leaders have to be willing to step up and advocate for what’s right, even when it isn’t the popular choice.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders all over the world have been tested for their courage. Some, including many of the world’s most powerful female leaders, have proven their ability to be courageous during a crisis. Effectively controlling the spread of the virus with their policies.

Courage is required whether you’re leading an entire nation or a team of just a few people within an organization. In 2020, you can’t afford to take the easy way out.

Honest self-analysis  

A good leader is humble and knows their own strengths and weaknesses. It is essential for those in leadership positions to be honest with themselves and to understand how to self-analyze. The most effective leaders know that there is always more to learn and are constantly in the process of improving themselves.

Not only does honest self-analysis allow leaders to more effectively delegate tasks in areas they are weak, but it also helps them to understand their team members and makes them more relatable. Being able to assess the strengths and weaknesses in themselves and in others is a major component of emotional intelligence and sets the best leaders apart.

Ability to boost company and employee morale 

A great leader doesn’t micromanage and oversee every little task. Instead, their role should focus on bringing out the best in the people they lead. People do their best work when they’re happy, and effective leaders know how to boost morale within each employee and the company as a whole. “Engagement” may be a buzzword by this point, but it’s an important factor in productivity and morale.

Morale has a lot to do with the company culture. A leader needs to be able to empower people, rather than making them feel overworked, unappreciated, or fearful. Micromanagement and authoritarian styles of leadership might produce results in the short term, but effective leaders know the cost of these tactics for long-term growth, employee retention, satisfaction, and culture.

Prioritize inspiring & nurturing minority leaders

In 2020, it’s clear that we still have a long way to go when it comes to recognizing, celebrating, and promoting the contributions of minority leaders. The very best leaders were promoting true diversity even before the most recent protests and movements, while other effective leaders are apologizing, stepping up and realizing they haven’t been doing nearly enough.

Leaders who have the courage to lift up minority voices will enrich their organizations and ensure that their company culture is diverse and inclusive. Effective leaders know that words aren’t enough; they have to take action and promote minority and female leaders within their own organizations.

Feet in the present, eye on the future 

Modern leaders have to be rooted in the present but must also be able to look to the future and predict the needs of their organization months or years down the road. They must be able to balance the needs of now with the projects that will drive a better future.

Having a long-term vision is what keeps effective leaders motivated. It allows them to create short- and long-term goals for their teams. It helps them to motivate, lead, and tackle unexpected challenges. Without that vision, leaders are simply reacting to the present and will never achieve sustained growth.

Being a leader in 2020 is difficult. But those who do it well can truly change the world for the better.


Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.