Top 8 Leadership Trends for 2019

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Top 8 Leadership Trends for 2019

At SHAMBAUGH, we often say that what got you where you are today isn’t going to get you to where you’re trying to go in the future. This is especially true when we’re talking about leadership styles. Frameworks quickly become outdated, so it’s necessary to refresh your approach to keep pace with new ways of thinking and working. In a two-part series of blog posts this month, I’ll share eight leadership trends to watch for and follow in 2019. Here are the first three to kick off January:

Build relationships vs. networks. The concept of general networking is often extolled as the be-all and end-all in the business world, fueled by quantity-focused card swapping and numbers-based social media linking. But ultimately, the quality of our professional and personal life is based on the quality of our relationships. A focus on building quality relationships has been the biggest factor behind SHAMBAUGH Leadership’s long-term success. Relationships have taken on new meaning through the era of social media, as you now can connect with anyone anywhere in the world using virtual platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While this easy digital accessibility has created a more connected world and online networking is important in that it allows us to cast a wide net of contacts, recent studies reveal that overuse of this type of contact actually makes people feel not closer to one another, but more isolated than ever before. 

This reality is important not just for individuals to be aware of, but also for companies. Remember that people comprise the foundation of our businesses on every level. People make, buy, deliver, sell, and consume our products and services. Yet we often shortchange these critical relationships by depending solely on digital devices to communicate. Fundamentally, people have a natural desire to connect person to person, at a human level—not just via email or text—in order to feel respected and protected. With the digital/data era upon us, this trend toward building true relationships with people versus simply collecting more contacts via online networks becomes important for today’s leaders to build trust and engage their teams. 

Crack the surface. True relationships flourish when you take an intentional approach toward learning something about another person, seeking to understand what matters to him or her. With this in mind, a best practice in relationship building is to seek development of different types of relationships, getting to know people regardless of where they sit and work in the organization. Take time to truly understand other people’s needs, concerns, and aspirations, and use that information to determine tangible ways to support them.

By spending quality time with others and learning what they care about, you can expand the power of your leadership lens, looking at issues in new ways. I personally have found that putting care and attention into developing meaningful relationships is helpful not only in expanding SHAMBAUGH’s thinking, but also in staying relevant to our clients. SHAMBAUGH’s leadership programs always address the importance of a leader’s development of purposeful professional relationships that focus on day-to-day operations, strategic relationships to provide a wider context or strategic lens, and personal relationships to help meet individual goals and aspirations. 

Prioritize face-to-face. How well would you rate your own capacity to go deep in relationships? Are you intentional about figuring out—beyond a superficial level—how you can understand others’ needs and goals, taking your leadership to a new level by finding ways to truly support people and build real partnerships? Taking the time to personally connect one-on-one in a meaningful way, whether in person or online, often reaps greater and longer-lasting rewards for all involved.

For 2019, take a few minutes to identify 10 to 15 people who are important for growing your business or helping to further develop and grow your leadership. Put them on a list and then block off time on your calendar to meet with each of them to begin the relationship-building process. (I set aside Tuesdays primarily as my business development days, where I focus my time on marketing and selling.) The people on your list can be current customers, people on your team, prospects, former customers, strategic partners, potential mentors/sponsors, and/or people who you’d like to meet but don’t know yet. 

Stay tuned for my next two posts in the 2019 Leadership Trends series, where I’ll share five more trends to watch for this year.

Rebecca Shambaugh is a leadership expert, speaker, author, President of SHAMBAUGH and Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a global institute for women leaders. Rebecca and her organization are recognized for their innovative and results focused approach for driving greater gender inclusion within organizations while accelerating the development and advancement of women leaders. SHAMBAUGH also works with their clients in engaging men and women as allies to be champions for creating a unified voice of leadership. 

SHAMBAUGH’s Mission: We’re on a mission to develop high-performing and inclusive leaders who transform workplace cultures so everyone can thrive. Find out more about us at:

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