Center for Organizational Leadership

Empowering Effective Leaders

Leadership wisdom I’m bringing with me into 2024

By Steven Morris

Steven Morris, a December 2023 alumnus of the MAOL program, is the Director of Human Resources for Hollywood Feed

As the new year begins, it’s imperative for human resources leaders, as well as all other organizational leaders, to reflect on the lessons learned and the wisdom gained from navigating the tumultuous terrain of the past year. From recession fears to politics, supply chain challenges and climate change, many external challenges encroached on our abilities to maintain a positive work culture and efficient operations. Inflation alone caused significant challenges for retaining employees while ensuring a competitive labor market.

As an HR leader, I enter 2024 equipped with a reservoir of insights and approaches that I believe will not only shape my leadership style but may also support others in driving successful organizational cultures and employee experiences and exceeding organizational expectations.

Adaptability in the face of change: 2023 was a testament to the unpredictability of our world. It reinforced the significance of adaptability. Flexibility isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a crucial skill. Our approach to work, employee policies and organizational strategies need to be agile enough to pivot in response to unforeseen circumstances. This includes investing in continuing education, training and developing our workforce for enhanced skill sets. To do this, leaders must pause and purposefully influence change even on the most difficult occasions. We owe it to our people, our customers and our stakeholders. Futuristic thinking will be the hallmark of successful leadership in 2024.

Empathy-driven leadership: Understanding and acknowledging the varied experiences and emotions of our teams has never been more critical. Empathy remains at the core of effective leadership. Compassion and active listening build trust and foster a sense of belonging among employees which is essential for a harmonious and productive work environment. This is accomplished through transparency and authentic interactions with people on every level. Authenticity should include hard discussions and transparency that appropriately challenges others toward their highest potentials. Whether the lead in labor-driven manufacturing or the CEO of a national chain, leaders should exercise servanthood toward others and implement policies that support employee growth and achievement as opposed to a confining and traditional workplace that stifles talent and slows organizational prowess.

Prioritizing mental health and well-being: The mental health impact of the past years has been profound. In 2024, HR leaders need to continue prioritizing mental health initiatives within the workplace. Implementing support systems, destigmatizing discussions around mental health, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are indispensable for a resilient workforce. With eyes wide open, I have come to appreciate the challenges that this presents. As a national culture, we have seen mental health as an individual failure versus the successes and stability that we are seeing more and more every day when we provide enhanced resources that support the health and well-being of our employees. The result is a more engaged workforce with increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. It is an investment worth making.

Diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation: DEI initiatives should not merely be a checkbox exercise. They must be deeply ingrained in the organizational DNA. Embracing diversity in all its forms, fostering an inclusive culture and actively working toward equity is non-negotiable for sustainable success. While we have recently seen a decline in the investment in this field from organizations, we as leaders should not lose focus that diverse perspectives and thoughts drive innovation and creative problem solving.

Find your peace: This is one of the most significant discoveries for me in 2023 and one I will strive to grow with in 2024. In today’s bustling workplace, finding peace and contentment often begins with embracing mindfulness and balance. Amid deadlines and demands, fostering a sense of tranquility involves recognizing the importance of mental well-being. Incorporating practices like mindfulness meditation, regular breaks (yes, actually taking a lunch away from your desk!) and setting boundaries can carve out moments of calm amidst the daily hustle. Cultivating a supportive environment where colleagues value collaboration over competition and encourage open communication contributes significantly to a more peaceful workplace. Striving for meaningful work that aligns with personal values and passions can also infuse a sense of fulfillment, fostering contentment that transcends the confines of the office walls. Ultimately, a harmonious workplace emerges when individuals prioritize self-care, foster positive relationships, and seek meaning in their professional endeavors. It is in the best interest of all that you take care of yourself, mentally and physically, so you can maintain stability and influence in the face of change.

Here's to a year of growth, resilience and impactful leadership! Set your realistic goals and map the path to achievement. I am always a resource to support leaders. Please feel free to share your feedback for my growth as well.