Telling the truth about SME life today

Making The Most of 2024 – What Should Leaders & Managers Consider To Drive Greater Impact?

Business leadership

Amrit SandharBy Amrit Sandhar, CEO/ Founder of &Evolve

Before we consider how leaders and managers can better engage and support their employees, first, we need to take a step back and consider what’s happening in society overall. With a huge rise in populism, first since Brexit and the surprise election in 2016 as Trump becoming the US president in 2016.

Michael Cox from the London School of Economics describes populism as reflecting ‘a deep suspicion of the establishment, that in the view of most populists doesn’t just rule in the common good but conspires against the people.’

With the decline of trade union memberships from an all-time high of 13.2 million in 1979, to approx. 6.25 million in 2022, and with concerns about trust within HR departments, there is a risk that the populist wave that seems to pervade society as a whole, may also have a significant impact on the workplace, where nobody is perceived to be ‘looking out’ for ‘ordinary people’. 

Whilst the Endelman Trust Barometer has consistently shown that more people have trust in their organisations over their governments, with demands by some to get back to the office, has highlighted the tension as to whether employers do have the ability to trust their employees and also whether employees can really be trusted. And who stands for the needs of employees if not HR or a union? It therefore seems inevitable that this deep mistrust of the ‘establishment,’ will continue to impact how people can feel about their workplaces.

Despite this, in a world full of division our workplace, regardless of politics, religious or sexual orientation or background, can create a sense of belonging and purpose and provide feelings of self-worth, as our roles tend to form a fundamental part of our identity. These aspects can also help define how much we identify with our organisations, as viewed from the psychological concept of Social Identity Theory

Taking all of this into account, what should leaders and managers consider as their main focus for 2024?


An accusation made of some politicians is that they don’t understand what ordinary people are going through, often detached from the pain of survival during the financial hardship of the cost of living. Empathy has been highlighted over decades as being important, but still many managers and leaders struggle with it.

To understand and share one’s feelings alone, is not enough, unless a person can express that empathy, for others to see how much that person understands and shares those feelings. Expressing empathy requires action.

The ability to act when seeing people are being overworked, to show a genuine interest in peoples’ lives, the willingness to help people struggling with personal problems and showing compassion and care at times of loss or hardship. Leaders and managers often think they should be seen as resilient and ‘keeping it together,’ remaining calm and in control. The truth is, that by being vulnerable, opens leaders and managers to express those emotions others are experiencing daily, leading to greater empathy. 

We’ve heard so much about the importance of wellbeing over the years, yet it’s hard to truly focus on your wellbeing when everyone around you including your manager fails to prioritise their own wellbeing. By actively looking after ourselves we give permission for others to do the same. This is about breaking the cycle from talking about the importance of wellbeing, to showing the importance of it.

Many would assume that those who look after their own self-care and that of others around them, will be naturally caring and compassionate as people. Leaders and managers know that giving 100% on any given day will vary hugely, depending upon how individuals are feeling, what’s going on in their personal lives and what’s on their minds.

Leaders and managers are not always the people who bring about pressure and stress at work, it’s often employees being hard on themselves. Supporting employees to understand that considering what they might be experiencing, and if the best they can give that day is all they can give, then that is their 100% and good enough. This goes together with personal recognition.

Self-care is often seen as only focused on wellbeing, but when leaders and managers can recognise and celebrate their own achievements, they are more likely to see them in others. Culturally, across many organisations people are still too reluctant to shout about their achievements, often citing what they have yet still to do, or highlighting any achievements down to luck. 


People are tired of a lack of truth. Whether it’s the news, social media, discussing topics with friends or family, there is so much confusion and mistruths (which may be what’s driving some of the populism that we are seeing), we are more aware of it, and then we are looking out for it. 

In the world of work, leaders and managers need to lead by being themselves, being more human and being more aligned to who they really are. This requires every leader and manager being aware of their own personal values and living their lives aligned to them.

There’s something so refreshing when you meet an individual who knows what’s important to them and lives their lives aligned to that – we are drawn to them. This in turn goes on to create a more relaxed environment at work, where others can be more of themselves, feeling more psychologically safe. 

When we meet people who are anxious and on edge, it seeps through every pore, and the mirror neurons kick in, causing emotional contagion. Leading authentically with care and compassion, will create a culture where employees – whether remote or on site, begin to experience that culture, where they feel the impact through each interaction, Teams call, email, phone call or visit to the office.

People want to be their best at work, and it doesn’t come from working in a fearful environment where people are treading on eggshells. This is an opportunity to stop the clichés, to stop squaring that circle, and to simply humanise the workplace through expressing behaviours that are aligned to our values, so being at work is less of an effort.  

We have a golden opportunity to redefine our workplaces this year, to stop rhetoric and lead with empathy, authenticity and truly valuing employees, making them feel more comfortable, valued and cared for regardless of where people choose to work from. This will allow for the creation of a much stronger connection to the organisation and to the cultures we create. 




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