Leadership in the 21st century

Chutisa and Steven Bowman outline how leadership has changed in the past decade, and what individuals can do to take a leadership role.

Chutisa and Steven Bowman outline how leadership has changed in the past decade, and what individuals can do to take a leadership role.

We live in times that are so revolutionary that they require new and different skills and abilities. Today's business environment is different from 10 years ago, where now the challenges and issues you face are changing at an incredibly rapid speed. Globalisation, environmental calamities, technological advances, and other complex forces are buffeting businesses like never before. 

However, many leadership practices that still prevail in most organisations today have their roots in the 19th century. These conventional leadership practices were built to maximise efficiency by minimising deviations from standard practices. In today’s constantly changing business climate you can't lead your business based on leadership archetypes from the past and expect to meet the challenges of today's workplace.

Leaders cannot rely on what may have worked in the past. The role of the leader has fundamentally changed. The new role is ‘to facilitate people to operate in this new hyper-change world and to inspire and support them to make change’. The real power of leadership involves having the boldness and the readiness to let go of all the timeworn conventional business models -- and helping the people around you to change at the pace and scale that’s essential.

For businesses to thrive in this hyper-change world your people must develop their ability to respond to these changes as consciously and skilfully as is required. In the current environment, you and your team must be able to make decisions efficiently, quickly, and strategically. Everyone must develop awareness, confidence and dexterity to effectively deal with uncertainty and risk.

In our 21st century, the boundaries of business are not precisely defined, and the rules of the game are vague, ambiguous, and often fleeting. As a leader, you must inspire and stimulate your staff to change the points of view and beliefs that keep them moored in the old business paradigms, or nothing will change in your business. Since success will require doing new things in different ways rather than doing the same things better, you and your staff must be willing to determine new ways to look at business. Doing new things in different ways is doing what is unexpected and unpredictable. It’s going beyond the norm.

Some people tend to be averse to change - particularly those who have been working in the business for a long time. They often refuse to see how the business environment is shifting. Being averse to change is very common, and is often a negative short-term reaction to change. It’s entirely natural, but it can be avoided — or at least mitigated. To successfully lead in the 21st century, you must acknowledge that the tendency for change aversion can be deeply ingrained in your business.  You must become aware of those tendencies in your people, and inspire them to see different possibilities.

Being a remarkable leader in the 21st century requires elevated levels of conscious awareness. Inspiring people to see different possibilities requires leaders to clearly communicate the nature and value of change. An explicit description can help people to appreciate any changes from your perspective. To facilitate people to operate in this new hyper-change world and ignite change, you need to model and show this change yourself first. This is exemplified by the well-known quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Most people think the power to change and transform means controlling and forcing something into existence. What the power to change and transform actually means is being aware of where you can put your own energy on something you can change, if you want to change it. To become a truly remarkable leader, you must start with yourself. It begins with an inner state, which creates a progression of external behaviors. Careful self-examination and a sincere willingness to expand your awareness will provide the foundation for you to become a remarkable leader.


About the authors

Chutisa and Steven Bowman are pragmatic futurists who facilitate hundreds of organizations worldwide to look at their business in new and unusual ways. They are authors of newly published book “No More Business As Usual” (www.nomorebusinessasusual.com)

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