The year 2020 forced leaders to prioritize some functions over others, preserve what they could, and pivot from being leaders to survivors.

With the brunt of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic behind us, technology leaders are once again looking for ways to stand out from competitors whether it be through hiring, product development, or employee benefits.

I connected with four tech leaders about the ways they aim to differentiate themselves from the pack moving forward.

Show up for your employees

Despite facing unparalleled ambiguity, Lewis Black, CEO of data management company Actian shared that “successful leaders have focused on what they can control, engaging their employees by acknowledging the challenges, and empowering them to manage their situation while giving them the flexibility to work through them.”

This sentiment was shared by other leaders. “Now more than ever, we need to create a sense of connection and engagement with our teams, as they work through the personal challenges this environment has created – and the separation it has created within our professional community,” said Leif O’Leary, CEO of consumer healthcare solution provider Alegeus.

O’Leary describes a need for compassionate leadership during times of growth. “We can’t expect our employees to be superheroes every day. Especially during COVID-19, sometimes less is more.”

Whatever the next year brings us, leaders across the board need to stay open to change and flexibility. “Whenever we see periods of great change, we are vulnerable on many dimensions. Employees who have gotten used to seeing their colleagues as a face on a screen will once again be thrown into a new paradigm of hybrid workforce, challenging their efficiency,” said Christy Wyatt, President and CEO of endpoint security provider Absolute Software.

Give your community a sense of security

“Technology leaders today have to be thinking about resiliency first and foremost,” said Wyatt. “Your employees’ well-being, and their ability to be productive, are both deeply rooted in their feeling safe, connected, and protected.”

The theme of security and connection extended to communication methods and making your employees feel in the loop. “Communication is a super-power, and the best leaders focus their teams with frequent communication and two-way channels that enable feedback-loops and rapid course correction,” said Black. Leaders should be transparent about changes being made, mitigating threats to employee safety, and constantly providing updates on the future of the company.

“Knowing that another major period of change is ahead of us, leaders should be taking inventory, ensuring critical controls are in place, and being incredibly transparent about both the exciting opportunities, as well as the challenges, ahead,” Wyatt shared.

Innovate, transparently

The need for innovation ties into a greater need to simply display empathy in your business. “In 2021, technology leaders will need to innovate with empathy and agility to solve real-world problems,” said Stefan Behrens, co-founder and CEO of GYANT, a company that provides AI solutions for health systems. “Inserting humanity back into digital engagement will be paramount across industries in 2021.”

This idea of forward-thinking and evolving was shared across the board. “As we are planning re-entry into whatever the next normal will be, we are certain of one thing — that it will be another year of massive change,” said Wyatt.

However, by communicating clearly and establishing a clear path to innovation, the collective sentiment from these execs suggests this change will come easier. “The elimination of confusion and enablement of interoperability across the industry will follow this human-first, empathetic approach,” said Behrens.

Overall, adaptability and agility will continue to be key differentiators in the industry. In the words of Black, “The world is continuously changing, and the businesses that win are the ones that are built to be agile and thrive on adapting to the new normal.”