The updated guide to modern leadership

The updated guide to modern leadership
Image: Fabrizio Lenci for Quartz
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The insanity of living and working through a global pandemic has, among other things, hammered home some basic truths about the art of management, starting with the fact that it was evolving rapidly long before a pandemic upended workplaces around the world.

Working remotely, working asynchronously, integrating work and home life, spending more time thinking about crucial aspects of work that aren’t usually in the job description, like mental health and inclusivity and company culture—all of these things started happening years ago. And all of them, whether we noticed or not, have had implications for those of us who manage people.

Now, not noticing is not an option. And just noticing isn’t enough. The past decade has brought enormous changes to our workplaces, gradually at first and then all at once, and the real insanity would be not changing our management thinking or tactics in light of it.

Our Quartz at Work edition has been documenting the evolution of work and management since its founding in 2017. In this field guide, we’ve gathered some of the very best ideas surfaced in our coverage, with an emphasis on our newest material. We’ve summarized everything so you can quickly absorb the highlights, and provided links so you can go deeper on any specific topic.

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Table of contents

Bucking conventional management wisdom | Leadership in a pandemic | Getting serious about inclusion and diversity | Timeless strategies for managers

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5 new rules for managers who are ready to buck conventional wisdom

A new generation of workers is questioning the norms and conventional wisdom governing the workplace. Managers can either ignore the critiques or see them as an opportunity to evolve.

Instead of railing against what’s being demanded by employees, managers can reframe change as an opportunity to grow and become even better, more thoughtful leaders. Exploring and understanding what’s being asked can help managers craft evidence-based approaches as opposed to relying on their gut reactions.

If the idea of getting comfortable with things like your employees’ side hustles offends your sensibilities, we understand. But not seeing this moment as an opportunity to update your perspective could leave you at risk of being left behind. Learn how to unlearn your old ways here.

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Thoughtful tips for managing people in a pandemic or its aftermath

If you’re lucky enough to work someplace that was early to embrace the empathy trend, you were one step ahead when disaster struck. But none of us has managed a team through a global pandemic before; understanding what this crisis demands of leadership is very much a work in progress.

How vulnerable should you be with the people you manage? How can you show appreciation to employees who somehow keep the trains running? How do you possibly measure success when performance has been this disrupted? Five practitioners share their emerging wisdom on these and other questions that managers around the world have been grappling with since the first rounds of lockdowns began. Find their advice here.

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Practical advice for managers who are serious about inclusion and diversity

Most diversity and inclusion practices suffer from being copy-and-paste exercises, often set off to the side of a company’s practices and too quick, easy, and superficial to be effective. That became apparent during the conversation that followed the Black Lives Matter protests that rocked the US earlier this year, prompting many companies to imagine what a truly anti-racist workplace could look like.

Creative solutions abound, such as drawing inspiration from peace-building efforts. Many of the practices that have been recommended ask companies to be more than just well-meaning, and to try something different to do better. From revamping the hiring process, to infusing inclusive practices into everything you do, here is the latest advice on how to take action on inclusion and diversity.

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Timeless management strategies every leader should know

The past year has been characterized by upheaval. But the coronavirus crisis also has been an opportunity to test the usefulness and effectiveness of classic management strategies. In the midst of turmoil and heightened stress, which practices hold up? And which approaches are likely to endure even as the workplace continues to evolve?

Successful leaders consistently navigate stress and change with empathy, and a clear-headedness that allows them to communicate priorities easily and confidently to staff. They also are open to dismantling the bureaucracy built up at their workplaces—restoring efficiency and creativity in everything from how decisions get made, to how employees are held accountable. Read the most up-to-date advice on what managers should hold on to, even in the face of immense change.

Have other recommendations for building kind, inclusive, and productive workplaces? Let us know at And sign up here to get more tips in your inbox every Wednesday with The Memo, the newsletter from Quartz at Work.

Modern leadership isn’t easy. But we can benefit from one another’s hard-won wisdom and do our part to make the workplace better.