Leadership in the 2020's and beyond

For any business looking to grow, this article explores the leadership skills required to scale up.

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Jamie Lane
Published: 17 Jul 2018 Updated: 13 Jun 2022

Time doesn’t stand still. Neither does innovation nor seemingly the skills you need to be a great leader in the 21st century. However, for any business looking to scale-up it is vital that they work smarter and look to professionalise their business to scale.

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We are now entering what is commonly referred to as the “fourth industrial revolution”. The pace of change in technological advancement is breath-taking and as a result leadership needs to take on similar capacity for change. However, skills in leadership are often cited as one of the key ‘gaps’ that prevent businesses scaling up.

Change – hyper speed

Technology impacts all business, sooner or later. Those that embrace change and take first mover advantage will most likely be the most successful. This means that to be a leader of a business moving into the 2020’s is creating different demands to what has been seen for the past 120 years.

The sheer speed of how we have moved from mobile phones that did little else but make calls and send texts, to devices now that we use as mobile computers demonstrates how quickly industries change in the 21st century.

Whilst businesses have all had to deal with change in one guise or another, the sheer speed that technology can change a sector now requires a capability as well as management capacity to drive change through a business. This requires the founder of the business to be able, and in a position to, hire key individuals in to key roles and for these people to then display crucial business acumen.

Leadership skills in 2020

The pace in change of technology means the skillset required for a leader in 2020 will be significantly different to those that may have worked in the past.


‘No man is an island’ will become more important than ever. A leader will need the skills to collaborate in multiple different ways. The capability to collaborate across generations and geographies as well as with partners, alliances and indeed competitors will be key to on the development of any organisation in a changing environment. We live in a hyper connected world and leaders must be able to work collaboratively with others.

Technologically engaged

Leaders must embrace technology. Leaders need to lead by example and be seen as promoters of efficient and effective working practices. The willingness and ambition to engage in new technology and harness the enthusiasm, innovation and creativity of millennial workers will be key to developing new products and services and retaining top talent.

Team development

The need for work-life integration…for the next generation of workers marks a shift from the delineation between the two that previous working generations have seen. Work has become an integral part of life and people want to work for organisations whose meaning and purpose is clear, work needs to be engaging and rewarding and full of feedback and coaching support. The establishment of mentoring programmes to help people take advantage of others relevant experience will be something that leaders need to fully support, champion and take advantage of themselves.


Gone are the days where a leader can say “this is how we have always done it, and this is how we always will”! Embracing new ways of doing things, driving technological and cultural change will be important to be able to lead markets and people. How we did things five years ago will be less relevant or even irrelevant compared to how we may be doing things in the next five years.

Change manager

Change will be the new constant. Change management, in particular behavioural change is hard. Leaders will need to develop new skill sets to deal effectively with leading and motivating teams through constant change cycles.

No more dependency

Businesses need to try not to be dependent upon their founders. A founder needs to learn the art of delegation to an appropriate management team but this is all part of making a business fit for purpose. Take advantage of our interactive benchmarking service and compare yourself to other businesses with similar problems and see how they overcame them.

By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.


This article was previously published on Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.