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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

30 action steps to be a truly great leader NOW - 2021

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Our organisations are broken – and it’s breaking our people

We’ve gone through the once in a lifetime chaos. We’ve seen some companies and leaders react well with compassion and respect. And we’ve seen some companies and their leaders stick to their traditional efficiency and output maximisation dogma. (1)

Last week, The ‘ Financial Times’ reported that:

‘A record 4 million Americans left their jobs in April – a large proportion by their own choice.’ (2)

On the 4th July 2021, ‘The Sunday Times’ said:

‘2.4 million UK workers have decided not to return to their jobs – many are leaving the labour market for good.’

A recent survey by Microsoft revealed:

  • ‘40% of workers globally are considering throwing in the towel and doing something else

  • 60% of young employees (between age 18-25) are merely surviving or flat out struggling – isolated, demotivated at work, lacking the financial means to create proper workplaces at home

  • Leaders are out of touch with employees - and need a wake-up call.’ (3)

2021 – our world has changed. Too many companies are on the wrong track

  • Too many companies doing similar things – implementing the same old people practices that didn’t work in 1995 and don’t work now

  • Too many companies hurtling towards mediocrity

  • Too many companies driven on by ‘thought leaders, commentators, HR gurus and consultants - who don’t have the ‘real world’ experience to understand how their recommendations play out. (4)

‘This is an unparalleled opportunity to enact massive positive change and plant the seeds for better companies. To react with less than full scale engagement and commitment is unforgiveable.

  • The old assumptions: blow them away - NOW

  • Throw them out - NOW

  • Time to re-invent – NOW.’ (5)

‘The pandemic has made many people wonder whether companies need a different kind of leadership to manage the situation, a question we might not be asking if there wasn’t a leadership crisis to begin with.’ (6)

‘Those impromptu encounters at the office help keep leaders honest. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees, ‘how are you?’ - and then pick up the important cues as they respond. But the data is clear, our people are struggling.

And we need to find NEW WAYS to help them.

We need a new style of leadership. (7)

According to a recent Gallup survey, less than half of employees (45%) feel strongly that their leaders truly care about their well-being.

‘Leaders - this has to change.’ (8)

So, 30 action steps to be a great leader NOW - 2021


  1. Know that - ‘leadership isn’t about being in charge – it’s about taking care of the people in your charge’ (9)

  2. Care about your people – ‘all the theory on leadership and gibberish is an utter and absolute waste of time unless you cares about your people’ (10)

  3. Walk in the other person’s shoes

  4. Know that the personal, physical, mental and emotional well-being of your team is far more important than anything else

  5. Build a culture of connection - regular check-ins with individuals, team meetings, social events


  7. Really listen. Be fully present - don't judge. Encourage questions and concerns. Listen actively—no side glances at your phone (10)

  8. Make space to hear how individuals are really doing - be compassionate. (They may not want to share the detail, which is completely fine. Knowing that they can is what matters)

  9. Know that – ‘it’s always ‘showtime.’ Your people watch you like a hawk. Your mood. You attitude. You’re always making one kind of impression – or another

  10. Offer flexibility– individuals have vastly different home life circumstances - and issues

  11. Promote family friendly policies – flexible working, part-time jobs, enhanced maternity and paternity leave

  12. Be inclusive – celebrate diversity and protect individual uniqueness

  13. Know that – making assumptions about what your direct reports need is a bad thing – they’ll need different things at different times

  14. Ensure - everyone knows what’s expected of them – how their work fits into the bigger picture

  15. Dispense optimism about the future – the future of the team and the company

  16. Communicate more than you think you need to – a ‘Harvard Business Review’ study showed that employees who felt their leaders were not good at communicating have been 23% more likely to experience mental health declines (11)

  17. Be authentic in communications – no ‘we’ll tell you what you want to hear’ nonsense

  18. Acknowledge the facts – if you aren’t the most reliable source of information, your team members are going to try to find a better one

  19. Be honest and transparent about the issues and implications – ‘including what’s known and unknown at the time - and the timeline for decisions. Employees understand that events are continually unfolding and will accept changes if the evidence and reasoning are clear. Boilerplate rhetoric will likely disengage them’ (12)

  20. Practice ‘meeting excellence’- know that meetings = leadership opportunities - to motivate, enhance curiosity and team spirit. Prepare thoroughly – set expectations – follow up – if you aren’t prepared (fully), cancel the meeting

  21. Under no circumstances schedule meetings out-of-hours. Under no circumstances be late for meetings (late= disrespectful). Under no circumstances arrange meetings that aren’t necessary

  22. Never cancel 1-2-1s or check -ins with your team members - NEVER

  23. Know that cutting bureaucracy to make work simpler pays massive dividends - stop wasting people’s time – free up time

  24. Remove stress - set expectations about workloads - prioritizing what must get done - acknowledging what can slide if necessary

  25. Know that treating people like adults sets a leader apart (for the good) – we all have kids, mortgages and are perfectly capable of taking decisions – you’re not teaching a class of 5-year olds

  26. Stop micromanaging – know that this is done because of a need for control – it is a problems with the leader - not the team members. The number one (guaranteed) way to de-motivate everyone

  27. Encourage your team to play to their strengths - not develop their weaknesses – they will then concentrate on the things the enjoy – not things that squeeze the energy out of them

  28. Know that investing in training brings the highest possible ROI (return on investment). Now more than ever - prioritize proactive and preventive workplace mental health training for leaders, managers, and individuals

  29. ‘Do not judge yourself harshly for the unevenness of the learning process – we’re all developing a whole new approach to leadership. It’s a very big deal and overnight success isn’t on the cards.’ (13)

  30. Know that – ‘the way people are leading at the moment isn’t about what they’re like as a leader – but what they’re like as a human being.’ (14)

  31. So let’s use this opportunity to create the mentally healthy workplace cultures that should have existed all along.

EGM – Building better companies

  1. Excellence now, extreme humanism, Tom Peters

  2. Financial Times, 3rd July 2021

  3. The next great disruption, hybrid working, Microsoft Research

  4. So, who do you trust at work? EGM Blog

  5. Excellence now, extreme humanism, Tom Peters

  6. Why leadership Has to change after Covid -19, Forbes Magazine: 11th February 2021

  7. The next great disruption, hybrid working, Microsoft Research

  8. COVID-19: What Employees need from leadership right now, Gallup

  9. Simon Sinek Twitter, 28 January 2015

  10. The excellence dividend, Tom Peters

  11. 8 ways managers can support employees’ mental health, Harvard Business Review, August 2020

  12. The pandemic conversations leaders need to have now, Harvard Business School, 21 April 2021

  13. Excellence now, extreme humanism, Tom Peters

Financial Times, 3rd July 2021

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