Leading Off

Each Monday, let McKinsey’s editors help you get ready to take on the leadership challenges of the coming week, through revealing research, inspiring interviews, and insightful quotations to empower you and those you lead. Get it in your inbox weekly.

A leader’s guide to new and improved talent strategies

– At about this time in 2021, when Leading Off last covered talent management, the great exodus of employees from the workplace had just begun. A year later, as we settle into the new normal, it’s time to check in on how leaders are handling talent challenges—which continue to be severe.

A leader’s guide to changing behaviors for the long term

– This week, let’s focus on what you can do to build the behaviors and capabilities needed to effect lasting change.

Honing your decision-making skills: A leader’s guide

– Business lore is rife with high-profile examples of bad decisions, some of which sank entire companies. But questionable decisions... that make headlines aren’t the only ones that can fail. The common, routine decisions we make every day can easily go awry and delay projects, alienate employees and customers, or hurt financial performance. In today’s uncertain environment, leaders are under constant pressure to make smart decisions fast.

Communicating more effectively: A leader’s guide

– There was no communication playbook when COVID-19 broke out. Beset by the pandemic and overwhelmed by information pouring in from... governments and the media, the best leaders focused intensely on communicating with employees in a variety of ways and often in a tone they were not used to employing: by reassuring, listening, comforting, and trying to boost hope and resilience.

Revisiting the future of work: A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore how the major trends—including the growth of the ever-evolving metaverse—are likely... to play out.

A leader’s guide to enhanced team development

– This week, let’s explore ways to ensure that your team is up to the task. Read on to learn the strategies of top executives—as... well as those of renowned rock musicians.

A leader’s guide to collaborating better

– This week, let’s explore ways to collaborate better, as well as some habits of collaboration that may undermine performance.

Tackling complex problems: A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore some structured approaches that can improve your problem-solving aptitude.

Investing in self-improvement: A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore some self-improvement techniques that may take you closer to the top.

Effective succession planning: A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore some strategies that make it easier to prepare for both planned and unplanned leadership departures.

Creating an enduring vision: A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore some strategies to develop an enduring vision that offers both stability and the flexibility to... pivot as circumstances change.

Is your organization future-proof? A leader’s guide

– This week, let’s explore how you can future-proof your organization and flex the skills that are crucial in a world of flux.

Managing performance: A leader’s guide

– How can leaders manage performance effectively when they can’t physically observe work hours and inputs? This week, let’s... review some tactics that work—and some that don’t.

Wellness at work: A leader’s guide

– The pressures of a high-octane job may be unrelenting, but this week, let’s put them on hold and explore how to improve... well-being.

On the Davos Agenda: Economic rebalancing, net-zero transition, and more

– Maybe you didn’t receive an invitation to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual Davos meeting this year. Lucky... for you, the WEF also put together a virtual Davos Agenda leadership docket.

How leaders think about diversity: A guide

– What should leaders do to offer a level playing field for advancement and opportunity? This week, let’s look at how to lay... the turf in a systematic way.

The optimist’s advantage: A leader’s guide

– Research reveals that people tend to pay more attention to messages that are framed in a positive way. But does maintaining an... optimistic outlook help you lead more effectively?

The resilient organization: A leader’s guide

– Developing resilience not only helps optimize functions in key business areas but also strengthens the organization holistically... through flexible organizational routines, streamlined decision making, and agile teams. Let’s explore how leaders can boost resilience—for their institutions and themselves—through a cohesive effort.

Building a new business: A leader’s guide

– Beyond his commitment to civil and human rights, one of the defining personal qualities of Martin Luther King Jr., whose life... and work we celebrate today, was a relentless entrepreneurial spirit. “Keep moving forward” was one of his frequent injunctions. As the business world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, its leaders seem to be embracing that attitude as well.

Are employees your newest customers? A leader’s guide

– Organizations that personalize rather than mass-market what they’re able to offer their employees can expect improved engagement... and retention. Let’s explore the ways you can lead with a personal touch in 2022 and beyond.

A leader’s guide to 2022

– What does a leader’s year-end outlook look like when the year feels never-ending? The calendar will turn, of course, but... after nearly two years, the pandemic’s uncanny ability to blur time makes the approaching new year feel a lot like another go-round of 2021.

Can AI make you a better leader? A guide

– With automation spreading into so many different aspects of our lives, some fret about robots taking over our jobs and eventually... displacing humans entirely. But the preoccupation with job losses has obscured the kinder, gentler side of artificial intelligence—its ability to complement or even enhance human qualities such as empathy and humility, which can change the way leaders make decisions.

Giving generously: A leader’s guide

– Studies point to children’s innate predisposition to help others, as well as the evolutionary reasons many species exhibit... “prosocial behaviors” and the positive links between generosity and well-being and happiness. These benefits can extend to the workplace, helping to reduce employee burnout and encouraging positive, healthy team dynamics.

What it takes to cultivate creativity in yourself and those you lead

– In a rapidly changing environment, creativity—the ability to generate new ideas, products, and solutions—is more important... than ever. Let’s put aside your to-do list for a few moments and do a little daydreaming, looking at the science of creativity, techniques for boosting creative output, and what the most creative companies have in common.

A leader’s guide to sustainable, inclusive growth

– Is it possible to achieve growth that is sustainable and inclusive, and what might that look like? Let’s explore... a mental model to help you ask the right questions and make the best choices.

Being there: A leader’s guide to the hybrid future

– As we manage COVID-19’s transition from pandemic to endemic, it’s time to face the fact that hybrid work isn’t... going away. Let’s collect the best thinking on the ramifications of this enduring shift and the challenges you’re likely to face managing talent, culture, and your organization while you ponder what it actually means to be with those you lead.

Relearning learning: A leader’s guide.

– Skill building is a hot topic in the C-suite, with executives paying substantially more attention to it—and its payoffs... in resilience and flexibility—since the pandemic began.

Managing sustainability: A leader’s guide

– As world leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland, at the 26th meeting of the UN-sponsored climate conference dedicated to reining... in climate change, the stage is set for many firsts, including this one: it's the first time since 2015 that countries are expected to commit to more ambitious actions to halt the steady rise in global temperatures.

Persuasive you: A leader’s guide

– Leading effectively requires persuasion—always a tricky business for leaders when dealing with human beings and their convictions... and biases.

The short-term need for long-term thinking: A leader’s guide

– Leaders can be forgiven if they’ve been fixated on one short-term crisis after another, but they shouldn’t abandon... the long-term focus that sets the best leaders apart.

The CEO’s moment: Leading in the next normal

– During the pandemic, many top bosses toughed it out, leading their companies to successfully adapt to the dramatic changes brought... on by the crisis. But it’s not over. Their next challenge is only now taking shape.

The leader’s guide to failing successfully

– We all fail, of course, and as much as we might like to dwell on our successes, it’s also healthy to take stock of where... we’ve come up short. This week, explore the science and sensibilities of stumbling—professionally and personally—to better manage yourself, as well as those you lead.

Why empathy matters when giving tough feedback

– Delivering thoughtful feedback is a critical tool for developing those you manage, and for developing yourself, but the process... has become much more challenging during this time of mostly virtual contact.

Innovation is about more than just creativity. Leaders develop their company’s innovation muscle.

– By and large, well-established companies tend to excel at executing but not always at innovating. A focus on essentials can help.... That’s what McKinsey experts did using research, interviews, and surveys of more than 2,500 executives from more than 300 companies across industries and geographies.

Welcome back? A leader's guide to the great postponement

– This week, let's try (humbly) to navigate some of the tricky crosscurrents of the great postponement to help you lead effectively... during this trying time.

Dream teams: A leader’s guide

– “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships,” says basketball legend Michael Jordan, who should... know. In business, top-team performance is an obsession; for decades it has ranked as a favorite topic among executives. But what does it take to build a superior team, if not a dream team?

What’s next for the middle manager? A leader’s guide

– The pandemic applied unprecedented urgency and exposed the need for greater operational speed. The insular hierarchies that middle... management represents suddenly seemed an even greater roadblock to plotting the resilient postpandemic organization. Let’s explore the future of middle managers and the changing landscape of this critical proving ground for future leaders.

A leader’s guide to transformation

– Transformation. Sounds awe-inspiring, right? Yet for something billed as spectacular and rare, chances are there’s one happening... right now in an organization near you.

Better leading through self-reflection: a special interview issue

– Openness, curiosity, empathy, balance. Such “soft” character traits are often the trademarks of the best leaders;... those they lead are the direct beneficiaries of the care and support that flows from caring bosses.

A leader’s guide to making better decisions

– In a complex and rapidly changing business environment, making the right decisions in a timely manner becomes increasingly important.... During the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders learned to make bold decisions quickly despite uncertainty. Yet many executives report dysfunctional decision-making practices at their companies.

A leader’s guide to cybersecurity

– The proliferation of ransomware attacks this year and efforts to prevent them should hold the attention of anyone with access... to a computer keyboard. This week let’s gather the experts for a leader’s primer on the state of this growing threat.

Is your ego getting the better of you? To lead better, tap your humility.

– The ability to be “other oriented” in your leadership and acknowledge your abilities—and your limitations—can... help you lead better and your team reach higher performance levels.

Time is fleeting. Here’s how leaders can reclaim it.

– Time, the clichés tell us and the pandemic has again proven, is fleeting, precious, elusive, and tight. Managing it is... a constant and ever-more challenging test for leaders as they move up the ranks.

An inconvenient briefing: The leader’s guide to climate change

– Whether in winter, summer, or in between, climate change is a topic that is subject to extremes because it touches everyone and... everything. Whatever perspective on environmental change you hold, it is important for leaders of all levels to have a nuanced understanding of climate issues and risks—and the remedies for them.

Maybe you’re a good boss—that doesn’t make you a good leader

– Consider this paradox: employee relationships with their bosses are by far the most important determinant of job satisfaction.... But more than 70 percent of people say that spending time with their boss is the most stressful time of the entire workweek. Think there’s room for improvement?

The leader’s next big challenge: Managing talent after the pandemic

– The safety of those you lead will always come first, but as the worst ravages of COVID-19 come under control and more and more... offices reopen, your attention—virtual and real—will naturally fall on how people have changed during the pandemic and how they must continue to change.

Leading better with lessons from the military

– Bosses ranging from CEOs to Tony Soprano turn to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for direction and counsel. Still, in... many underappreciated ways, the military has valuable—and often counterintuitive—lessons to offer leaders about learning and team building and dealing with the issues of resilience and ambiguity that have marked this period of pandemic-fueled uncertainty.

A leader’s guide to artificial intelligence

– AI has gotten to the point where every leader, in activities ranging from mining to education to human social development, needs... to understand the process of machines performing the cognitive functions we associate with human minds.

A leader’s guide to the rules of a new social contract

– Even as the global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the application of vaccines and new therapies offers a soothing... promise of return to a more familiar and predictable time. Yet it would be a mistake for leaders to lose sight of how much has already changed.

How leading with agility delivers better bottom lines and employee satisfaction

– Agile process management has evolved from an approach used to develop software more quickly to a way of managing work that applies... across entire businesses to help them innovate and adapt, overcome inertia, and achieve continuous improvement. To deliver those benefits, senior leaders’ mindsets and behaviors must change.

A leader’s guide to building a better you

– It’s impossible to know exactly how much has changed in little more than a year of a pandemic that seems to have blurred... time itself. One thing we do know is that employee relationships with bosses and supervisors will be the top factor in worker satisfaction.

You’re burned out and grieving. Here’s how to help yourself and those you lead get back up.

– Leaders can define burnout and treat it, and they would be wise to start doing both as a potential catastrophe in public mental... health looms. Your business may have become fast and agile during the pandemic, but that won’t amount to much if you can’t manage postpandemic reentry for yourself and those you lead.

A leader’s guide to getting serious about humor at work

– Too many leaders underplay the value of humor in working with teams and their broad organizations, and they miss the punch line:... humor can make people comfortable and builds empathy, communication, and morale, especially in these stressed times.

Why mentoring matters for leaders and those they lead

– Odysseus had one, to whom he entrusted the safeguarding of his son while the hero went on his peripatetic way. Oprah is one, and... if you’ve ever had one, you probably know the good that they can do. Mentors, that is.

Every leader’s guide to understanding value

– Value creation is the foundation of business. Whether for shareholders, workers, families and communities, or myriad other stakeholders,... the ability to identify the sources of value and create it is the leader’s enduring mark.

Leading Off presents: The old-school guide to leadership

– New insights on psychological, behavioral, and organizational ideas flow from the leadership industry in a torrent, but many of... those insights were innately understood by legendary leaders who grasped the human underpinnings of leadership and delivered on them throughout their careers.

The postpandemic future beckons: What leaders should know

– As global efforts pave the way for the transition toward normalcy, organizations are starting to think about the postpandemic... future. What will the office look like for those who return to one and for those who don’t?

Won’t you be my neighbor? What community leadership means

– With the help of a food bank leader, LGBTQ+ experts, and Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar, we reflect on the ways you intersect with the... stakeholders who form your organization’s broad social community: those in need, your local neighbors, even that community closest to you—your family—to make your days in the neighborhood better.

A leader’s guide to the art and science of well-being at work

– We know the virtues of eating well and exercise as antidotes to stress and grief but let’s explore the contours of well-being... and get personal on reprioritizing rest, relaxation, and reflection to boost well-being for you and those you lead.

The need to feel safe is human. Here’s why it’s also important at work.

– Explore how leaders can foster a psychologically safe work environment with the same focus and commitment that they dedicate to... other business goals.

Every leader’s briefing book for 2021 and beyond

– Saving lives during the COVID-19 crisis, rebuilding the US economy, advancing racial equity, and mitigating climate change are... big, complex economic and social challenges that will show up on every leader’s agenda in some form; they deserve deep understanding and reflection.

Leading Off presents four “profiles in leadership”

– Let’s consider four leaders—a mold-breaking entrepreneur, a hard-driving CEO, a healthcare administrator, and a passionate... advocate for child literacy—and celebrate their grit, commitment, and care for those they lead.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho! A leader’s guide to building your workers’ capabilities now

– The holidays now feel like a distant memory, COVID-19 vaccines are circulating, and it’s time to consider how you’ll... train your employees and thrive in a vastly changed business environment.

Communication is key, especially during a crisis. Make your words count

– Communication—or lack thereof—can make or break a company’s success. This week, we explore how to center people... at the core of your communications strategy.

A leader’s guide to recovery in 2021

– While the global pandemic made last year a bleak descent into existential risk, loss, and grief, this year begins with at least... the promise of an ascent to recovery and a more positive reality. Demonstrating sincere care for teams and employees will still be the leader’s test, as will having the soft skills required to lead well.

MLK's enduring message for today's leaders: "What are you doing for others?"

– As the world celebrates Martin Luther King’s birthday today and the United States inaugurates Joe Biden as its 46th president... this week, we gather together all-star bosses of many stripes: past US presidents, a leading CEO, a Navy admiral, and a top foreign-policy expert to broaden your thinking on behalf of those you lead.

Loss and mourning are hard to navigate—here’s how to lead your people forward

– Grief and loss have become all the more palpable during COVID-19—and it’s affecting personal and work lives. This... week, we try to help you promote healing for your teams and yourself.

Ponder your purpose

– Not much room for self-reflection these days, is there? But there should be. It’s healthy to reflect on your own purpose... and smart to ask yourself how you’re adapting.

Are you an empathic leader?

– How are you feeling … about empathy? We can tell you how your people feel: they want to see more of it from their leaders.... This week, let’s elevate your sensitive side.

Re-onboard yourself and others

– Organizations are materially different than they were just a few months ago, and unplanned experiments are everywhere. Take advantage... of this learning lab to lead in new ways.