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It’s nearing the summer of 2023, and companies worldwide continue trying to return to pre-2020 – the Old Path of leadership.

Unfortunately for them, two irreversible conditions prevent that possibility: the future of work and demographic change.

First, despite leaders’ desire to lure/encourage/mandate workers back into the office, the Old Path of commuting to work for a 9-to-5 is dying. Forbes reported that 50% of executives want their charges back in the office. But only 12% of employees want to be back in the office full time. While big tech companies are laying people off, smaller, more nimble enterprises are offering flexible or remote arrangements to lure talent.

Second, aging baby boomers who leave the workforce take institutional knowledge with them. But they are living longer, and many really do not want full-time retirement. The Wall Street Journal recently had an excellent set of interviews with baby boomers who plan not to retire. The great majority enjoy contributing and consider the continued mental stimulation preferable to sitting in front of a TV, atrophying in body and mind. As Nancy Murphy told the newspaper: “I’m enjoying the human interaction and learning. With the new flexible workplace – one of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic – spending time with family, traveling and many of the joys of retirement are now available to the working.”

Options for remote and hybrid work, flexible schedules, fractional executives and gig work can keep many of those baby boomers around as they onboard the next generation of leaders.

The Old Path of forcing them back into the expensive city or into lengthy commutes will push them out the door. That goes double for younger workers, because as I noted in Insightful Leadership, many view a corporate 9-to-5 as living death. Entrepreneurship exploded during the pandemic, and new business applications are showing signs of a significantly higher baseline than pre-2020.

On the other hand, the New Path of Insightful Leadership embraces both the reinvention of work and the need for change in the face of demographic realities.

Just because your team is not one in the same conference room does not mean your team is not together. Video conferencing, chats, communications technology and even the old-fashioned phone call can keep everyone connected. In fact, since executives do not have to spend their days on the road and their nights in hotels, productivity can increase while quality of life goes up – a win-win.

Changing how you used to lead may require you to also embrace coaching and training, leadership and organizational redevelopment and organizational transformation. But such a New Path is the only way forward.