The Shifting Landscape for Leadership Skills

Aug 22, 2023

Brad Westveld and Jake Espenlaub featured in Hunt Scanlon Media

August 18, 2023 – Leadership skills have been a simmering hot topic for the past several years, especially as it applies to both professional and technical skills. But the past year and a half may go down as the great shake-up for leadership skills, according to executive search consultants. Traditional leader skill-sets (including communication), which could once be mastered, now need to be refreshed for different, and virtual, contexts.

With the shift to remote and hybrid work, recruiters tell Hunt Scanlon Media that leaders will continually need to refresh and develop skills. That they are willing to put in the work is clear from the additional learning time sought out to confront the COVID-19 crisis.

Search consultants also say that companies can help in keeping skills sharp by moving beyond static job descriptions and skills architecture that carried on from years past. Critical capabilities can also be defined on a more ongoing basis by establishing processes to revisit, iterate, and refresh success profiles in line with strategic business priorities. 

{Read similar articles: Executive Hiring Predictions in 2023}

Excerpts from ON Partners experts in the recent Hunt Scanlon Media article include:

The change from pre-to post-COVID has become less around ‘specific industry skill-sets’ (i.e., must be an EE, CS, or come directly from a competitor) to more intangibles,” said Brad Westveld, co-founder and partner of ON Partners. “Clients are asking for executive backgrounds that show self-structure, self-motivation, resiliency, an ability to deal with loneliness of remote work, and an ability to manage remotely with high impact meetings, advanced PMO skills and project follow-up, along with management finesse.”

“The ability to drive collaboration and teamwork despite being in a hybrid and distributed world,” said Jake Espenlaub, partner at ON Partners. “The definition of loyalty is different than it used to be, and it’s harder than ever to build it. Those that are able to build team buy-in are reaping rewards.”

“Hybrid is certainly still the norm; however we are seeing a strong push for more F2F interactions to drive collaboration and efficiencies,” Espenlaub said. “Whether it’s hiring locally and increasing in-office requirements (i.e. three days a week) or hiring regionally with an expectation for travel, working fully remote is not happening as frequently as it was the last few years.”

For what we call ‘generational workers’ (45-plus) the key here is simply embracing new technology,” Westveld said. “Do not be afraid of learning or using new technology. This worker segment will need to continue learning new systems and being open to new ways of communication. For the younger backgrounds (entering the work force now to age 45) these skill-sets are off the charts in their ability to multitask and embrace new systems but will need to continue to work on formalizing their communication. The use of so many collaboration tools today has created less formal, ad hoc interactions and those that learn to master their communication skills in a business setting will be very powerful employees and company influencers. Companies that train on new technology, especially some of the new AI tools, but also teach the intangibles of communication, work flow, project management, will be the ones with best-in-class employees.”

“With the young generation being so accustomed to being remote and/or hybrid, the return of office expectations are fairly foreign to them,” said Espenlaub. “The question is how does that really affect development and what are the long term benefits and consequences of this societal difference to organizations as a whole and to future leadership?”

Digital transformation is ever changing, and day to day,” Westveld said. “Use of ChatGPT, Jasper, Grammarly, for example on the AI side, is a game changer and will transform once again our work interactions and speed to finish tasks. Even the use of text, Instagram, Facebook, and collaboration tools (Teams, Zoom, RingCentral) for business related conversations is changing how we interact and drive projects. In short, digital transformation will play a pivotal role and the key is integrating it into the existing operating workstreams efficiently.

Brad Westveld and Jake Espenlaub are partners at ON Partners, the only pure-play retained executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams across industries and functions. With over 20 years in executive search, Brad Westveld is an expert at placing C-level and Board executive in go-to-market sales + marketing and technology + engineering functions with a focus in technology, consumer, and industrial industries. Jake Espenlaub executes C-level and Board searches for growth, private equity, and public organizations in the SaaS, e-commerce/retail, and consumer marketplace sectors. 

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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