Looking to the past, reflecting on the present and planning for our future leaders.

Looking to the past, reflecting on the present and planning for our future leaders.

 15th December 2021

As the new year approaches, we tend to look back at the year that has gone, look at where we are now, and look to the year ahead. Whether this is in our personal lives, our professional lives, or both, taking a step back and looking over your life and or career can be a hard yet satisfying task to do, and just like in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol it can be life-changing. 

How can this exercise of looking at the past, present, and future be applied to Leadership? Well, we can look at the evolution of the leader and how the role has changed and developed into what we have today, and what hopes there are for the future.


What is the traditional role of a leader? 

A leader can be described as someone who oversees a group of people, they motivate, instruct, praise, and offer constructive criticism, but is this the same as it was in the past? 

Traditionally the focus of a leader is to improve the position of the business by instructing, motivating, guiding a team to reach the business targets and this can be dated back to the time of the industrial revolution which was a time of great organisational change (Forbes Article). To improve the flow of the work and increase the outputs leaders in the industrial revolution borrowed concepts from the military with the “top-down” approach, placing leaders at the top and workers at the bottom. Leaders would make decisions and instruct workers to do what they told them to, to achieve their goal. Another form of traditional leadership is where power is given to a leader based on heritage, for example, Kings, Queens, Politicians, and in some cases several of today’s business leaders, where power is handed to a person rather than it being earnt and rising through the ranks.

           Although traditional leadership has its place and its benefits for the likes of the military, it does now have its drawbacks in the world of business leadership. It can limit new ideas from being welcomed and explored, new business leads are usually brought in by the leader only rather than utilising the whole team, which can lead to a high turnover (


Have we evolved our leadership style?

As the world moved from the 20th to the 21st Century the world of work evolved. Running alongside world events people started to realise and see their worth and would no longer blindly follow orders. We started to think for ourselves, we did research and fought for what we believed in. As this culture of change was emerging it changed how leaders viewed their role and how employees are assets to a company. 

Today, modern leaders have several  leadership methods and styles to fit the needs of a team, a business, and stakeholders. It has been identified that there are 4 aspects of a modern leader: The Visionary, The Architect, The Coach, and The Catalyst. 

  • The Visionary shapes a clear vision for the team and works with the team to translate the vision into measurable outcomes that they can work towards. 
  • The Architect takes on a higher-level role, rather than developing plans the Architect designs the team and organisation to be empowered and can continually change course, adjust the flow of resources, and adjusts to the team's needs. 
  • The Coach helps to empower people with knowledge, training, and advice. As the organisational goals change the team needs to be able to think more strategically and work collaboratively. The Coach does this by creating a blend of formal and informal working environments where creativity is welcomed, where teams feel comfortable to talk about what is going well and what could be worked on and this then builds a culture where solutions are created, questions are asked and seeking other people’s perspectives and opinions is encouraged. 
  • The Catalyst continually produces energy which is felt throughout the whole team. The Catalyst does this by removing any roadblocks that prevent a team from bringing ideas to reality, fostering and maintaining connections across the organisation, helping the team meet the organisations' vision and aspirations, and finally, encouraging an inclusive and welcoming environment where people can be themselves (

These 4 aspects feed into the modern working environment and allow employees to be themselves, be creative, be heard, be respected, and understood. The modern leader can also be described as a good listener, people-focused, inclusive, leads by example, and builds strength within a team both personally and professionally (LinkedIn blog).


What does the future hold for leadership?

As we moved from 2019 into 2020 a lot of business leaders started to look towards the next 10 years and think about where business leaders would be in 2030 and the challenges they might face. Little did we all know that 2020 would be the most challenging year for business leaders ever, and they would need to be everything a modern leader is and more. Like most people in 2020 we made it up as we went along, and the role of the leader changed dramatically, and they had to change their mindsets almost overnight to battle through an unforeseen pandemic. 

           As we start to emerge from the pandemic and start to see what was done well, what wasn’t, and what could be worked on, some of the same concerns for the future of a business leader still remain, for example, how technology is changing so fast and we have to remain informed in order to keep up, a business’s environmental impact and the need to be innovative and adaptable, but some have changed. Wellbeing and work-life balance have become the number one priority of many employees and leaders must recognise this when leading a team.

Moving forward  business leaders’ mindsets need to still be focused on their people and the business, but they also need to go one step further. 

  • As the world is now more connected than ever Globalisation is a theme a future leader will need to consider, how can a company tap into the global business and job market and be more diverse? 
  • A future leader will need to offer and ensure that their team has purpose and meaning in their jobs to keep their top talent, salary is now no longer enough to make people stay.
  • A future leader will need to invest in upskilling their employees.
  • A future leader needs to be the explorer of the team, they need to be bold, brave, and take risks to be continually learning and developing themselves and their teams.
  • A future leader needs to be emotionally intelligent and develop empathy and self-awareness to build great connections.
  • A future leader must be environmentally aware and be continually striving for change.
  • A Future leader will need to have a focus on morality, ethics, and transparency to improve customer and employee satisfaction. They will no longer be able to hide behind a title, like all they must be accountable for themselves and their team.
  • A future leader must provide support to the whole person, from career support to personal support whether that be physical, emotional, or mental support.

(Forbes Article) & (



Having looked at the past, present, and future leaders, what do you think a leader needs to be? What do you think a leader needs to offer? How do you think a leader needs to support you? Leading Well can help you take a look over your current organisational working with our bespoke advisory and coaching services. We can help you to improve your organisations' wellbeing with our Employee Wellbeing Surveys, and we can help to train Mental Health First Aiders, so your staff feel comfortable and supported when in a crisis. 


If you would like to know more about our services and how we can help you to work towards a better future, then please contact us.

For now, from the team a Leading Well we wish you a joyful and healthy festive season and a Happy New Year!