The 10 core capabilities of great leaders in 2024

New ways of working, growing complexity, greater expectations, and continuing uncertainty are challenging for everyone, including managers and leaders. Organizations, teams, and external stakeholders are asking more and more of them and they are feeling the pressure. Many are struggling to develop fast enough to cope, let alone thrive. 

Now is a great time to review and update what we all understand about management and leadership. We believe everyone has the ability to be a great people manager / leader, but it takes care and attention to grow the capacity, capability, and confidence needed.

Our Insights Group – a team of senior external L&D practitioners plus our own internal experts – set out to discover what matters most in developing leaders and managers who are ready for tomorrow. Drawing on 30 years of leadership development expertise, the latest research, insight from subject experts, and customers globally we developed our new Hemsley model of management and leadership.

In our experience, leadership and management is about what we do and how we do it, not just what we know theoretically. Leadership and management are a practice – that takes practice.

In this article, we will expand on the ten core capabilities, identified in our management & leadership framework and whilst they are common to all organizations, delivery naturally reflects the context and culture they are part of.   

Leading inclusively

Evidence shows inclusive teams perform better, are more creative and have superior wellbeing. Being inclusive is more than words, and even actions, it begins with mindset. Belonging is a human need we all share, but our lived experience of it is not the same. 

In practice, inclusive leaders know and value all the team as individuals, actively seek diverse perspectives, consider the potential impact of decisions on under-represented groups, and are role models for inclusive behavior.

Being authentic

Authenticity is associated with greater wellbeing, happiness, engagement, innovation, and retention. Authentic leaders are passionate about inspiring and empowering others. They self-know and self-show (with skill).

Authenticity at work is related to better colleague relations, higher levels of trust, greater productivity, more positive working environments and greater work-related satisfaction. In practice, authentic managers show their values through their words and actions, create a climate where people can be themselves, finds ways to share their vulnerability, and model their humanity in communications.

Growing talent

The best managers/leaders have a growth mindset for themselves and their teams. They identify and use the unique strengths of their team to deliver performance. They prioritize attracting, growing, retaining, and exporting talent for the benefit of the team and organization.

The pace of skills redundancy is increasing. By 2027, 50% of skills will have changed (WEF). Managers play a leading role in upskilling, reskilling and broad skilling their team members. 

In practice, talent growers provide regular feedback, create stretch opportunities, value a learning culture, proactively invest in future capabilities, export talent to other teams, and find opportunities to provide coaching.  

Nurturing change readiness 

Agile managers/leaders proactively read and act on signals of change. They are open to better ways of working and champion innovation. They understand the dynamics of change and attend to how others respond, actively supporting them through transition. They prioritize change resilience – their own and their team.

40% of CEOs believe their business needs to ‘evolve or die’ within the next ten years (PWC). Leaders are crucial to the success of change - through nurturing receptiveness, building participatory cultures and taking sustainable action.

In practice, change ready leaders help navigate uncertainty, build resilience, support transitions, recognize the importance of the emotional and rational cases for change, and are open-minded role models. 

Creating purposeful, agile plans

Leaders need clear, compelling, and well managed plans to support individual, team and organizational success. The approach taken needs to be robust enough to deliver sustainable performance whilst being agile enough to respond to the changing environment. Plans and progress are reviewed regularly and transparently. 

In practice, agile leaders anticipate and read trends, provide a compelling future-focused vision and direction, and regularly review and update plans so they are relevant, compelling and effective. 

Providing direction, clarity & structure

All the team know where their role fits and how they contribute. Goals are aligned and well communicated. They know the ‘why, what and how’. Guidance is given, but without micro-managing. The team feel informed, clear and up-to-date.

In practice, leaders ensure goals are understood and aligned, standards are clear but not suffocating, provide regular progress updates, and inspire accountability. 

Delivering sustainable performance

Managers/leaders are outcome focused. They pay attention to the short and longer term. They are mindful of the wider impact of their decisions – on society, the environment and communities they serve. They manage performance at individual, team and organizational levels.

Employees who are thriving are key to sustainable performance. They demonstrate 16% higher performance, 125% less burnout, 32% more commitment to the organization, and 46% more job satisfaction (HBR). 

In practice, these managers focus on outcomes not just activity, motivate performance in the short and longer term, attend to wellbeing and team resilience, and carefully consider the impact of their decisions on society, environment and their communities.

Fostering psychological safety

Being able to speak up is foundational for team creativity, performance, learning and wellbeing. A safe environment is not a soft one, nor is it always comfortable. There is an expectation of speaking up, high standards are encouraged, and mistakes are visible rather than hidden. Leaders have a pivotal role.

A wealth of evidence shows the strong connection with engagement, innovation and team performance. Psychological safety and courage are two sides of the same coin. Both are, and will continue to be, needed in a complex and uncertain world (Amy Edmondson).

In practice, leaders nurture the conditions for their team to speak up and challenge whilst ensuring safety is measured and discussed.

Having straightforward conversations

Leadership is all about conversations - about results, customers, strategy, learning, innovation, performance, wellbeing. Leaving people to guess what you really mean is rarely helpful. Great conversations can take courage, thoughtfulness and planning.

No one relishes difficult conversations but candour, honesty, and straightforwardness can improve trust, transparency and risk-taking. Data suggests only one in five managers are currently good at having difficult conversations.
In practice, the best managers learn from challenging conversations, encourage constructive feedback in all directions across the team, and foster a climate of candour and respect.

Building connections and relationships

The best manager/leaders build and nurture constructive relationships internally and externally. They take the time to really know others. They care about the enterprise beyond their own team. They pay attention to the impact they have on others, flexing their approach to get the best from others.

With new ways of working, how we connect is changing. Social isolation is increasing, impacting mental and physical wellbeing. Leaders who know others, and themselves, are better positioned to develop resilience, build engagement with team goals, and connect workflow with the organizational mission and goals.

In practice, connected leaders trust others, are trusted by them, have strong peer networks, champion enterprise-level leadership, remove silos, and take time to listen to people at different levels in the organization.

Introducing our framework

It is a challenging time for managers and leaders, but it’s also a time for growth, innovation, and new possibilities. With the right support, and by focusing on what matters most, we can build and sustain the capabilities we need for today and tomorrow. 

Learn more about our framework


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