Author’s Note: This weekly column delivers 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. Stay tuned to WRAL TechWire each Wednesday for the next edition, as lessons build atop each other. Last week, we talked about how to have professional development conversations


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Ask a thousand CEOs and corporate board members what they think is the single most important part of leadership, and many people are likely to iterate on one of these three themes: leaders must have a big-picture vision for what the organization can achieve, must effectively communicate their vision to all stakeholders and must know how to execute against a strategy that will point their teams in the right direction to achieve success. In other words, have a vision and know how to make it real.

The way I like to think of it is this – big-picture thinking is a non-negotiable leadership competency, but the real magic lies in step-by-step tactics and implementation. 

As a leader, your own small-minded or fearful thinking can have detrimental effects on your organization. At the same time, without tactical execution, your big vision and big strategy won’t go anywhere. The key is knowing how to connect your vision with learning, culture, teamwork, and priorities. For me, that’s what organizational leadership really means: dreaming big, then bringing that big-time dream to life through systems, processes, culture and people. 

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Donald Thompson

Over the next six weeks in this column, I’ll give actionable, detailed tips you can implement right away to become a better leader and see better results throughout your organization. If you read this column frequently, you may already know that I view better leadership through five key trends that are shaping the way we talk about business in 2022 and beyond. In the coming weeks, I will connect the macro trends that follow with granular actions I recommend. Follow along with me and let’s connect on Linkedin. I’m always interested in learning how other leaders chase their dreams.


For better impact, standardize how you communicate your vision, and simplify what you expect from each department and direct report. Simplifying your message will help each person understand the two or three things they can do in their specific role to move the needle for the organization, which leads to better prioritization and helps your team reach optimum productivity even when they’re juggling multiple, competing deadlines and projects. Just remember that simplifying doesn’t mean reducing your standards. It means clearly communicating how you’ll measure success.


It will probably come as no surprise to you that, as the CEO of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) firm, I believe wholeheartedly that diverse teams drive better decision making and more meaningful results – not just diverse demographics but diverse backgrounds, skill sets and job functions. That’s how cross-functional teams increase success. But diversity of perspective means little to nothing if your team members don’t feel valued and empowered to fully contribute. In today’s evolving workplace, learning inclusive leadership skills is no longer optional. It’s a core leadership skill. By implementing organization-wide DEI practices, you create a culture where teamwork can thrive.


In business – and maybe also biology – “survival of the fittest” doesn’t mean the strongest, most powerful company will win. It means the one that is most agile. In my definition, agility is similar to resilience. It’s the ability to quickly identify change and quickly respond. That’s another way diverse teams create impact: by increasing an organization’s capacity for innovation and making stronger, better decisions, faster. By modeling personal agility in our own daily work, leaders foster an agile culture that leads to greater organization-level success. 


The first few times you hear it, the phrase “personalization of the employee experience” might sound outright unreasonable and unscalable, but I’d say it’s now one the most important pieces of creating a future-ready, sustainable organization that thrives in the modern marketplace. In marketing and sales, we’re used to thinking about customization as part of the process – how do we reach the right customer at the right time, in the right place? – but leaders don’t typically use that approach to attract, retain and get the best from their employees. Understanding how to personalize each employee’s unique experience will help you attract topflight talent, set the conditions for each person’s best work and retain valued employees. That means paying attention to the things that make each employee excellent. 


Learning and development are a big part of developing both personal and organization-wide agility because the expectation for continued learning increases our openness to change and improves our growth-mindset thinking. In short, it is your leadership responsibility to commit to competitive learning and help your team emulate your commitment by offering multiple learning and development modules that fit into their usual workflow. When professional development becomes a part of every week – not just biannual industry-wide conferences or intensive online courses – employees not only enjoy it more but also show greater knowledge retention and implementation of the skills they’re learning. 

In sum, organizational leadership means trend-spotting and a continued willingness to adapt. By connecting your own daily actions with these five leadership trends, you will make a better impact and see better results immediately.

Next week, we’ll talk about learning in more depth, with resources and simple, step-by-step strategies you can use to integrate learning in the flow of each employee’s workday so you can improve productivity, agility, inclusion and your workplace culture. 

About the Author

Donald Thompson is co-founder and CEO of The Diversity Movement, which offers an employee-experience product suite that personalizes diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) through data, technology, and expert-curated content. His autobiography, Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, is available for pre-order now. With two decades of experience growing and leading firms, Donald is a thought leader on goal achievement, influencing company culture and driving exponential growth. An entrepreneur, public speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach, Donald also serves as a board member for several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. Connect with him on Linkedin or at

More from Donald Thompson:

Employees disengaged? Then make development conversations a regular part of work

Gender pay gap: Here’s how your company can help correct it

Marketers, communications pros need to deliver more inclusive, authentic stories