Over the past decade or even just the last five years, managers have worked in an almost constant state of change. We have witnessed the continued march of globalisation and rapid pace of technological development. It is evident that the 2020 manager will need to be agile, and adaptive but also that the fundamentals of good leadership and management will matter more than ever.


A flexible workforce

The overall trend is towards greater flexible working in the UK. Half (51%) of the managers surveyed expect flexible working to become the norm within five years and recognised it as a future trend.  Similarly, 52% of managers believe their direct reports are working more flexibly than five years ago.

The power of relationships

Working relationships are increasingly important both within teams and with external stakeholders. More than half of managers surveyed recognised this as a future trend and the same percentage thought that working relationships were now more important than five years ago.

This trend has been driven by the increase in flexible working, and, in some quarters, a growing importance placed on relationships and trust in response to the 2008 crisis and subsequent financial and political scandals.

Core competency required

The core functions of good leadership and management will be more important but harder to achieve. Overall, more than half (52%) of managers agreed that skills such as communication, delegating, goal-setting and motivating direct reports were more important but 46% agreed that tasks related to these skills are more difficult to carry out.

Our recommendations

Our research shows that to succeed in the future, managers must be far more agile, responsive and able to adapt to the needs of a radically different workplace over the coming years. They must also continue to contend with further technological and cultural change that will impact how organisations operate and ensure the core management and leadership practices are successfully carried out.

The manager of the future will need to:


And understand the core functions of leadership and management from planning to vital people skills such as motivation, effective communication and driving engagement. Crucially, the key to being a successful manager will be knowing how to apply these skills in the changing workplace.


With the increase of flexible working, managers must trust their reports and learn to measure performance on outcome rather than hours worked. Relationship management and collaboration will be central to how organisations operate in the future. Managers at all levels, therefore, must be able to build and manage quality two-way relationships with employees, customers, suppliers and other partners. This will require top-notch communication skills and a mastery of the channels available to them.


Agile and adaptive but also reliable and solid managers. Managers should be emotionally intelligent as the qualities that embody this will be required in all aspects of management whether it is engaging and motivating teams or building successful working relationships and partnerships. They should also be prepared to actively encourage and support their reports’ increasing desire to improve their own employability.

Links and resources

20:20 vision: future trends in leadership and management - video