Five Trends Leaders Can Expect To See In 2023 (And How To Prepare)

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s article is written by Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute. It is a companion piece to her interview with Christopher Washington, a learning ecosystem designer who serves as Executive Vice President and Provost of Franklin University, on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled 5 Trends to Know: Leadership in 2023 which aired on December 27, 2022. 

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

Traditionally, VUCA stood for volatile, uncertain, chaotic and ambiguous, but more recently a more positive acronym has emerged to represent the positive response to VUCA: vision, understanding, clarity and agility or adaptability. VUCA will define the coming years, and there’s an opportunity for leaders to shift the negative VUCA to the positive VUCA.

With every challenge, there is an opportunity. Moving our mindsets from negative to positive can be the biggest challenge for leaders. When considering leadership trends last year, I wrote, “We need to rethink how we lead and structure our businesses and lives for our people, organizations and communities to thrive. Most of us have mental models reflecting slower change and less complexity. It is time to update those models. Old models generate increasingly suboptimal decision-making and action.” This sentiment is even more true today. We must continue celebrating what works and adjusting what doesn’t work.

According to the documentary It’s VUCA: The Secret to Living in the 21st Century, one aspect of successful organizations is they are antifragile, meaning they get stronger under stress. For our organizations to thrive, we need to consider the system we operate in and determine how to make them antifragile.

Here are five trends I believe will have an impact on organizations in 2023, along with some prompts for leaders to consider in order to make their organization more antifragile:

Trend One: There will be a greater focus on sustainability and energy security.

The strain on the oil supply caused by the Russia/Ukraine conflict and the high cost of natural disasters has impacted businesses and government resources. According to a recent Forbes article, “The past two years saw record numbers of billion-dollar disasters.” In addition, geopolitical alignments are shifting as we watch how countries and continents align on taking climate action and how developed countries will support less developed countries to mitigate the impact on their populations. The United States government is investing significantly in energy security to address these pressures. As a result, the opportunity to expand climate-resilient businesses will grow substantially.

Ask yourself:

  • What are you doing to assess and manage your energy consumption?
  • Have your leaders been trained in environmental, social, and corporate governance leadership practices focused on your industry?

Trend Two: Inflation and food insecurity will continue to affect consumers.

Inflation is impacting nearly every aspect of our lives. For many, it’s most apparent at the grocery store. The United Nations’ Food Price Index remained virtually unchanged in October, with prices still much higher than pre-pandemic costs. A downward trend in food and fuel is required to ensure consumer spending remains healthy. There’s an opportunity now to build food systems that withstand climate-based shocks. This could include everything from strengthening food distribution systems to enhancing production capacity in areas impacted by drought.

Ask yourself:

  • How does reduced consumer buying power affect your business?
  • Can you create offerings that appeal to budget-conscious consumers?
  • Does your organization provide solutions to mitigate food insecurity or help those affected most by the rising costs of basics?

Trend Three: A growing investment in artificial intelligence and chip production could lead to new business opportunities.

With the passage of the CHIPS Act in August, we saw the U.S. government invest in “reshoring” chip manufacturing and invest in research and development to support the defense industry and competitiveness of hardware and software supply chains. According to McKinsey, “The CHIPS Act directs $280 billion in spending over the next ten years.” This investment will help the U.S. compete in the artificial intelligence space, which is important considering that the controller of the A.I. sets the values programmed into A.I.

Ask yourself:

  • What opportunities could “reshoring” create for your organization?
  • How are you using A.I. or robotic process automation to improve your competitiveness?

Trend Four: The Great Resignation and ‘quiet quitting’ will alter the workforce.

Amid the Great Resignation, many organizations are struggling to find and keep employees. If they can attract employees, they face the phenomenon of “quiet quitting,” when employees do just the minimum to accomplish the job. According to Gallup, “The ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is now 1.8 to 1, the lowest in almost a decade.” This means that “quiet quitters” now make up at least 50% of the U.S. workforce.

There’s an opportunity now for companies to take a new approach to engaging employees. Some companies are looking at utilizing employee listening technology for real-time sentiment tracking and considering structural changes like four-day work weeks.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you better engage your existing employees and attract new ones?
  • Which of the emerging approaches to talent could you experiment with?

Trend Five: There will be an increased need for leadership development.

I’ve seen firsthand how leaders are the most significant leverage point for success in many organizations, yet they often neglect their development to focus on delivering short-term results. This short-term focus will have an increasing impact that differentiates the successful from the unsuccessful organizations. There’s an opportunity for organizations to develop leaders committed to continuous development and systems that reinforce development.

Ask yourself:

  • How is your organization building its leaders’ ability to navigate the VUCA climate?
  • What additional leadership development investments would further elevate your organization?

In addition to writing about trends, I wanted to focus on the opportunities these trends provide. As leaders, we can position our organizations to be more resilient or, even better, to be antifragile. As we move into 2023, how can you help to build an antifragile organization?



Maureen Metcalf is the founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute. She is an expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends. Ms. Metcalf helps leaders elevate their leadership quality and transform their organizations to create sustainable impact and results. She captures 30 years of experience and success in an award-winning series of books used by public, private, and academic organizations to align company-wide strategy, systems, and culture using Innovative Leadership techniques. Ms. Metcalf is a Fellow of the International Leadership Association. She also serves on the advisory boards of the School of Strategic Leadership at James Madison University and the Mason Leadership Center at Franklin University. Ms. Metcalf earned an MBA from Virginia Tech. She can be reached at

Christopher Washington is a learning ecosystem designer who serves as Executive Vice President and Provost of Franklin University.



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Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future via Apple PodcastsTuneInStitcherSpotify,  Amazon Music,  AudibleiHeartRADIO, and NPR One. Also, stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute on LinkedIn.


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