Author’s Note: Throughout the first half of this year, I’ll be using this weekly column to offer real-time, easily digestible leadership actions you can take to build a better workplace, become a highly-productive, future-ready leader and improve your leadership impact right now, today. The actions I am recommending will improve not only your business performance and bottom-line results but also your daily workplace culture, helping you unlock your team’s capacity for excellence and clear the path to a more productive, efficient, and enjoyable future. Stay tuned to WRAL Techwire each Wednesday for the next edition of my weekly column as lessons will build atop each other. We’ll start today with topic number one: leadership trends you can’t run away from. 


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Building a better workplace begins with leaders who model behaviors that are worthy of emulation and therefore hold the great potential to shift workplace culture from the top down. Essentially, what that means is that leaders must create valuable, personalized employee experiences that translate into sustained business success. 

Better and sustained employee performance is predictable when there is true alignment throughout the organization. And from my perspective, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is the key to organization-wide alignment. It defines the everyday behaviors that leaders should model and reward for better outcomes, and it gives us a roadmap for shifting our policies and internal systems so they also align with our values and behaviors. 

To kick start this year, I want to talk about five leadership trends I’m seeing in the market today that will only grow more prominent throughout the year and into the long-term future. I’ll dive deeper into each of these trends – and translate their concepts into granular actions – over the next few weeks in this column. These are the global leadership trends that future-ready leaders are already investing in. You can take part in that forward movement by exploring the additional resources below and committing to learn more this year. 


The world is messy and noisy right now, and it has been for a pretty long time. We’re polarized. We’re disconnected from each other. We’re anxious, distrustful, frustrated and confused. And it’s easy to get caught in social media rabbit holes or news cycles that only increase our feelings of isolation and loneliness. All these things are at odds with inclusion and with workplace excellence.

Every employee is dealing with their own unique quantity of chaos, whether you know it or not. Maybe their child’s school is canceled this week, or their roommate tested positive for COVID, or they’re working as a caregiver for a parent who’s not exactly easy to manage. How do you create workplace excellence with all that chaos swirling around? The answer is to keep things simple

Remind yourself every day that the people you meet are probably working through multiple things that you can’t see, and do your best to simplify what you can so that they can be successful at work. Don’t complicate their lives with vague instructions and unclear standards for success. Instead, use best practices for empowered delegation, give clear directions for what you expect them to achieve and set measurable, achievable goals. Learn more by reading “The Power of Simplicity” from the American Management Association and “Lessons in Simplicity Strategy” by Julia Hobsbawm. 


Inclusive leadership sets the conditions for employees to do their best work consistently. But to be effective, DEI must be woven into the daily interactions that leaders have with employees and colleagues have with one another. For far too long, DEI has been seen as a one-off, compliance-based initiative, addressed with infrequent, mandatory training sessions. By integrating DEI into culture, systems, procedures, and workflow, we translate the fuzzy concept of inclusion into everyday actions people can follow, and we break away from compliance-based thinking. 

Yes, inclusive leadership starts with learning and training, but it lives in the daily habits of leaders and teams. The goal is not just DEI for its own sake because it is the right thing to do. The goal is to unlock workplace excellence, and the tool for reaching that goal is a commitment to DEI. To learn more, consider reading my article “Inclusive leadership in action: how to lead meetings, give feedback, and more” and Jamie Ousterout’s actionable guide “Diversity Minutes: Integrating DEI into the Flow of Work.


In modern business, the need for change is constant, especially in light of the continuing pandemic. All leaders must become effective change managers or risk becoming stagnant and irrelevant. This is a topic I wrote about last year in a WRAL Techwire article titled “How you can win despite all the chaos,” where I talked about my personal experience with the book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William and Susan Bridges. If you haven’t read it, now’s the time to get started. Two other great resources for learning more are industry analyst Josh Bersin’s website and podcast and Accenture’s new podcast “Built for Change.


The employee is now the center of the universe. As leaders, we must consider our organization through the lens of its people to create and deliver value to clients. It’s not enough to be just “people-centered” anymore. The future of leadership is personalized to meet each individual’s unique strengths and needs. How do we create personalization and excellence at scale? That’s where DEI steps in. 

To learn more, I encourage you to read “The one thing execs can do to avoid the great resignation,” a blog article from Development Dimensions International (DDI) titled “What is Personalized Leadership Development?” and another from Forbes, named “Hyper-Personalization: How Organizations Are Rethinking the Employee Experience.” 


Mentorship in the flow of work means integrating high-value feedback, learning and professional development into the course of the work day. If you’ve got your ear to the ground on learning and development issues, you may have already heard about “learning in the flow of work.” This is the leadership equivalent. It means intentionally demonstrating specifically what success looks like at a granular level where employee engagement is highest and within the flow of the workday when the potential for retention and impact are greatest. 

One example is microlearning. Instead of hour- or day-long training sessions that interrupt the work week, employees want mentorship and learning that fit easily in their days. They want 2-5 minute lessons that can be digested daily. You can get a preview of how that might work by enrolling for free in the beta edition of my team’s new learning platform, MicroVideos by The Diversity Movement

These leadership trends are the five key topics I’ll be weaving into this weekly column throughout the first half of 2022. Follow along with me to learn more about each one and how, specifically, you can translate these trends into daily leadership habits that shift workplace culture and unlock workplace excellence. As we move through them, our goal will be to define the trend, model it, make it a habit, and reward the people who emulate our actions. This direct translation of concept to action will help create alignment throughout your organization and build a better workplace at large. If you have helpful perspectives or personal stories to share, reach out to me on LinkedIn or at

About the Author

Donald Thompson is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach. With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, he is a thought leader on goal achievement, influencing company culture, and driving exponential growth. He is also co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, a results-oriented, data-driven strategic partner for organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives recently named to Inc. Magazine’s 2021 Best in Business List in DE&I Advocacy. Donald serves as a board member for several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports.