What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for leaders and leadership training in 2024?

Professors Johannes CLAEYS and Felipe GUZMAN, co-directors of the IÉSEG Research Center on Leadership Development share their views on some of the key issues facing leaders in 2024 as well challenges and opportunities for developing leadership skills and capacities.



Temps de lecture

4 min


In 2024, the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) will continue to be an important topic for leaders, as organizations strive to become more inclusive environments. To do so, many leaders face the crucial challenge of dismantling entrenched racial inequalities within organizations.

They will need to move beyond superficial DEI initiatives towards systemic change, focusing on uprooting biases and redefining idealized white masculinity standards (for example in Europe or North America). This is not easy task, but some practical steps include fostering inclusive cultures and re-evaluating hiring and promotion criteria to eliminate unconscious bias.  Leaders will also need to exchange in dialogues that acknowledge and address the underlying anxieties and defence mechanisms that perpetuate racial disparities. They must champion these changes not only in policy but also in everyday practices and organizational ethos.

Some practical examples and opportunities for leaders include encouraging diverse voices by asking people who think (or are) differently from them to suggest how to resolve key organizational problems. They can also look to include these people in decision-making processes, rather than concentrating decisions and communicating them in a top-down manner. Finally, they can also seek to increase the representation of diverse individuals in key positions of responsibility.

Leading hybrid workplaces & navigating digital transformations

As digitalisation and technological change gather pace, leaders will also need to find a balance between looking back and looking to the future.

On the one hand, remote leadership will be in “full adulthood”. The COVID-19 pandemic has already accelerated the shift towards remote work and leaders will need to broaden their behavioural leadership portfolio to effectively manage the remote teams and the work-from-home-employees.

Leading hybrid workplaces will, however, also require executives to continue to invest in developing a solid bond with the company purpose as well as relations between employees. Recent research has revealed that collective and or compulsory telework has a substantial impact on organizational identification and connection.

This research showed that this collective sense of belonging, being part of a work community, is currently under pressure. Hybrid workplaces will not only require clarity on the task-oriented, procedural level, explaining how we can collaborate efficiently. Leaders will have to underline core processes, central activities that require presence and dedication so that employees stay in touch with the real mission of the organization.

People not only come to work because they believe that they make an important contribution to the world or society. They also come to work because they share the need for relatedness: a strong will to connect, to interact, to care for other people. If we tend to be more formal and focused on efficiency in our digital interactions, leaders also need to create the time and space for socio-emotional bonding and create opportunities to experience genuine warmth and care. If we combine these face-to-face interactions with a culture of trust (e.g., by granting autonomy) it will help to avoid friction or dissatisfaction in a team comprised of employees working from home while others are at the office.

Meanwhile, leaders will not only tackle post-pandemic challenges. The rapid advancement of technology means leaders will need to navigate digital transformations and leverage emerging technologies to stay competitive. With artificial intelligence gathering steam – enabled for example by having chatGPT on every computer or smartphone – authority, expertise, volatility, innovation will be redefined in 2024.

A couple of recommendations could be to invest in digital skill development, providing resources and trainings on data analysis, digital marketing, cybersecurity, applied artificial intelligence, but also to launch mentorship programs and encourage cross-functional, digital projects so that employees have real and useful opportunities to explore and improve. It is not only a matter of tools and digital mastery, but it is equally important to install a learning culture that values risk-taking and creativity, reinforced through collegial collaboration, where efforts and achievements are shared and rewarded.

An important time ahead for executive training

If leadership development and training has proven to be crucial for organizational success, we believe it will be important for companies to ask the right questions to consolidate the leadership pipeline in the year ahead. While investment in leadership development has skyrocketed in the past decades, not a lot of companies or even leadership consultants really understand whether or why their leadership development programs (LDPs) are effective: fewer than 10 % of LDPs are rigorously evaluated and evaluations are often limited to “smile sheets,” or brief surveys testing whether participants liked the programs, rather than analysing how much they actually learned.

Recent research (co-authored by Johannes CLAEYS) found multiple reasons why LDPs should be sustained, going beyond the typical tagline of “developing leaders”. The research discovered four different but important motivations for companies to engage in leadership development.

Understanding these “4 faces” can improve not only the communication but also the effectiveness of these programs, since they are both equally important. In a similar vein, research published in December in the Sloan Management Review provides useful advice for companies planning to run leadership training. It helps to guide them in asking the right questions and engaging in evidence-based decision making when establishing training programs.

 More specifically, the research highlights the questions that are typically asked by organizations and suggests better alternatives. Some examples would be:

1) Don’t ask: Is the (training/development) program easy enough to schedule around daily operations but ask: Can we schedule it appropriately to interact with and enhance daily operations?

2) Don’t ask: Will participants be comfortable/entertained enough to give the program high, immediate satisfaction scores? But ask: Are we willing to challenge participants enough for meaningful change to occur?  

3) Don’t ask: How will we justify the cost based on whatever budget is available?  But ask: Are we only willing to spend money if we can meaningfully work towards real change?

In 2024, our Center (ILEAD) will continue to carry our research to help companies with leadership training notably by asking the right questions, so that leaders know what kind of leadership development they need and providing the necessary research to determine the most effective LDP for that specific need.

Category (ies)

Management & Society




Leadership and Organizational Behavior

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IÉSEG Insights

IÉSEG Insights


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Johannes CLAEYS

Human resources management & leadership

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