As 2022 continues to unfold, expect this year to see the rise of the empathic leader. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Global CEOs have telegraphed as much. A recent study from global consultancy Alix Partners of some 3,000 CEOs and top executives across 10 industries world-wide found that a whopping 72 percent of them fear losing their jobs in 2022, and 80 percent of them cited “labor shortages” as a potential worry. These CEOs have proper cause for concern, for it is largely their own leadership practices and attitudes toward employees that are at the root of these labor shortages.
The number-one driver of the massive worker vacancies facing U.S. businesses has been the Great Resignation, the voluntary departure from the domestic workforce of some 41 million employees in the 10-month period between April and January of this year alone. And the principal impetus for those exits? A widespread realization on the part of rank and file associates that life is too short and the world too big to spend even one more day accepting the unacceptable conditions created by the same people who are now justifiably concerned with their own future employment.
And the phenomenon is showing no sign of easing. January quits, just announced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on March 9, were again over four million, continuing to prove pundits, who had earlier predicted the end of the Big Quit, quite wrong.
Bolstering the notion that the unrest is far from over, YPulse surveyed 1,450 Millennials in mid-December and found that 29 percent anticipate starting a new job in 2022, with a whopping 81 percent now saying that having a “meaningful career” is somewhat to very important to them. Employees today, across all age groups, want to be treated with dignity and respect. They want to be recognized for their contributions and treated fairly when they fail. They want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves and to work for people who strive to make their lives better. They are leaving companies in droves right now in search of these leaders. And they will keep leaving until they find them.
Expect boards and others responsible for C-suite hiring and firing to assist them in their searches. In now the one year anniversary of the Big Quit, they are already beginning to make the changes that a majority of CEOs and executives told Alix they know are coming. And when they do act, expect boards to replace those they fire with more empathic, more caring leaders — human beings who believe it is their role to improve the lives of those they lead, not the other way around. Boards and hiring managers are finally awakening to the truth that that none of excessive self-confidence, extroversion, or bias for control translate to business results, and are more and more rejecting the old-school autocratic, top-down style of management that has dominated C-suites for over a century.
It’s because the pandemic experience of this hundred-year-old style of management, which seeks, as its primary goal, to elevate the leader at the expense of those around him or her, has left little more to show for itself than 11 million job openings, an exhausted workforce, and declining productivity.
The Great Resignation has been, in its simplest terms, about no longer accepting the unacceptable. Among the biggest trends in 2022, then, will be one about accepting the acceptable — about the rise of the decisive, empathic leader. And it’s about time.