The Emergence of Twenty-First Century Leadership

Today’s guest post is by our talented colleague, and friend Cathy Taylor.  Cathy is a social media expert who helps businesses develop comprehensive communications strategies to achieve business goals and objectives.  More of Cathy’s insightful articles can be found on her blog.

Flexible, adaptable and innovative companies require a different kind of leader, those with a passion for discovering how to do what no one else is doing and doing it better than anyone else. twenty-first century leadership is one in which all the power to make change is no longer concentrated at the top. The command-and-control style of management is buried, and the birth of customer-centered leadership emerges to form companies that are flexible, adaptable and innovative.

Management expert and business thinker Dr. Gary Hamel is a strong proponent of what he calls the reinvention of management. Dr. Hamel believes the ability to embrace new challenges is one of three steps to continuous management innovation. He suggests today’s leader must focus on innovation, adaptability and engagement. Why? Because in order to go beyond the global commodities of human capital, Dr. Hamel espouses that leaders must nurture worker skill sets like initiative, creativity, and passion and zeal, skill sets that often go untapped in many organizations.

Old School Management

The current practice of management originated in the industrial age. Think back to the Ford Model T. The need for managers was to ensure that the cars rolled of the assembly line with little defect and as efficiently as possible. This type of management fostered hierarchical and bureaucratic companies with rules and procedures that in today’s world have become restrictive. Very little innovation occurs in an environment where employees are not empowered to be creative problem solvers.

Now fast-forward to the twenty-first century. The dismantling of old school management styles are beginning to take shape, particularly for companies that want to seriously compete on a global front. Thanks to technology, companies can find employees in every corner of the world who fit within the old framework, workers who do what they are told, who work hard, and who have the intellectual capacity to perform their job. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these qualities. However, in order to create a sustainable business in this new economy, leaders must strive to create the type of business culture that fosters innovation, diversity and flexibility.

New School Management

The mandate for creating flexible, innovative and engaging workplaces requires leaders who are psychologically capable, ready for change and motivated to compete in a global landscape. New school management style results in what Hamel calls an inversion of the leadership model. At the Fortune Innovation Forum, Hamel suggested leaders should no longer ask, “How do I get people to serve the organization’s goals?”  Instead, he said, the question should be how do leaders create an organization that allows people to serve their own goals while simultaneously serving customers and creating wealth.

The new problems that leaders face today cannot be solved with old school tactics. Innovative leaders in the twenty-first century will have to be even more assertive, and look for the competitive situations that allow their company to stand out from the rest. New thinking must take shape to face new realities.

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