Leaders are often easy to pick out from a crowd — they’re charismatic, driven people who simply stand out from the rest. However, there’s much more to leadership than taking charge and giving orders. The strategy involved in excellent leadership is tricky, and it’s always changing. To that end, here are a few up-and-coming trends to consider
1. We will witness the continued rise of women leaders and groups.
It wasn’t too long ago that a woman CEO was atypical. Now, I always expect to meet female company leaders when I go to conferences and other events. The coolest way this trend is growing so quickly is found within the groups that support and promote women as CEOs, COOs, and other top executives. Organizations like the Women’s Information Network,Center for Women in Business, Girls in Tech, and a variety of others are providing incredible platforms to connect. When you combine these groups with the passion women leaders have to help others, it’s easy to see that this trend will continue to grow exponentially. It’s important for male executives to recognize and support these efforts — and not let pride or antiquated views get in the way of company growth.
2. Thought leadership will be crucial, but increasingly difficult.
Thought leadership has been a buzzword, especially in the last year or so, but it’s never been more important than right now. People like to throw the phrase around and might not understand exactly what it means, but it’s essentially this: conveying your expertise and thoughts in the media to build your credibility. The problem is that the cat’s out of the bag — people are realizing that thought leadership is one of the best ways to differentiate and build credibility around a company. People want to work for and with the best, so the more you can position yourself and your company as industry leaders, the more quickly your business will grow. With companies putting massive budgets toward thought leadership, the playing field is about to get incredibly crowded. Publications will have pipelines full of expert contributors, so it will be more difficult to get content published in the right places.
3. Combining social good with your business model will become expected.
It’s natural to want to buy from a company if you feel that your purchase will help society in a meaningful way. Businesses are quickly catching on. What they’re doing is not just admirable — it’s also very profitable. Companies like ONEHOPE Wine determined that they could combine the passion of wine with giving back to the community. Fifty percent of the profits from all wine sales go to one of their charity partners. It clearly differentiates them as a company that cares, and at the same time, they’re able to grow in a remarkable way. Look at your core business and think about how you can include social good in the business model. You don’t need to go out and attempt to save the entire world at once, but a simple and relevant cause tied to your business can draw attention in a natural, positive way.
4. People will start high-growth businesses from anywhere.
Ten years ago, you’d have had to move to Silicon Valley, New York, or another “big” city to join or start a high-growth company. Now, small business incubators, accelerators, and other resources are sprouting up all over the place — not just major cities. You can start a successful business anywhere, and much more easily, now that we’re all connected through technology. You could get your startup off the ground in your pajamas from a trailer park if you wanted to. It’s interesting to see the look on people’s faces when I tell them my company is based in Columbia, Mo. — it’s like they thought we didn’t even have Internet connections. With one of the best journalism schools in the country in our backyard, we are able to get top talent without big-city overhead. Keep an eye out for opportunities outside of the major cities in 2013, and don’t miss out on a potential job or investment opportunity just because you don’t recognize the town’s name.
5. Marketing strategies are becoming more closely related to high-quality content.
The value of high-quality content will become even clearer in 2013. Companies are starting to see that a content marketing strategy can be a great catalyst for other marketing strategies. It will provide a method to reengage your audience through social or marketing materials. Quality content will gain you authority links on credible sites, and those can be extremely helpful in building your online search rankings and reputation. Most importantly, it will help you get information out about the type of company you are and build the story behind your products or services. Creating a content marketing budget line item could save you a substantial amount of money on other line items that have eaten up your budget in the past.
Being a leader is about more than your take-charge attitude or your engaging charm — it’s also about the choices you make each day. Consider whether one of these trends might impact your company in 2013; it could be the best leadership move you make all year.