New series: Leadership for the 21st Century-Part I
29 Nov, 2012
“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” — Albert Einstein
If you feel the rules have changed, that you can’t catch your breath and just as you step on stable ground a rug has been pulled from beneath you, you would be right!
In a short dozen years there has been almost an unimaginable impact of unforeseen events in how we work, live, play and learn together. It is safe to say more changes are on the way.
The trio that authored ForeSight 2025, has spent the last two years listening to community and business leaders about their concerns, hopes and fears. Charlie Grantham, Norma Owen and Terry Musch have combined their expertise in technology, workforce change and next generation professional development to produce a guide to the future. They call themselves the FutureWork>ing<TOGETHER team.
Being agile and sustainable going forward will require leadership that brings together the sharp edged analytical with disciplined intuition. In 21st century dual hemisphere brain fashion, ForeSight 2025 is written in a way that exercises the critical capacity of whole brain thinking.
The basic question posed in chapter three is: “What are the specific new competencies required to be an effective leader in the 21st century?” This chapter is about the ego. What do “I” have to do before I am ready to lead? It is about self-definition and learning how to use power as a force for good.
There are many forces pushing organization to radically change the way they operate. This new business model requires a new kind and style of leadership. This chapter outlines those forces for change and a new paradigm of leadership development. This chapter is a contribution to the overall thrust of this book — that radically new and different skills and competencies are needed to build a sustainable you and community in the 21st century.
- The leadership skills that worked in the industrial era don’t work today. This is a conceptual world, not a machine world. New leadership skills will be needed in a global, interconnected world. Facilities managers can be at the forefront of this revolution, if they prepare themselves.
- Effective leadership for the 21st century begins with an internal, personal transformation. You can’t change an organization until the leaders change. It starts with each person and their transformation.
- The skills and competencies needed are knowable, and can be taught through experience. This isn’t rocket science. Tried and true principles of social psychology can help prepare our future leaders. And, this psychology is valid across cultures in today’s global business environment.
Forces shaping change
We’ve been writing for the last two years about the on-rushing wave of fundamental change that is sweeping over the old industrial order of our world. We believe that what is occurring, that also has everyone’s thoughts and fears all twisted up is more than a routine swing in the “business cycle.” No less an expert than Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric said it best: “Someone hit the re-set button.” We’ve expanded on that by suggesting that a “re-structuring” of many industries is impending.
These factors are not limited to the private sector. In fact, we believe the leadership “crisis” will first appear in the public sector when revenues decline by 25-to-33 percent in the next year. Specifically, communities that have been relatively homogenous since WWII are being forced to change the way they think and behave by three major forces.
For example we have Jim Clifton, Gallup’s chairman and CEO, saying that businesses have squeezed as much as they can out of the old industrial model of business organization. Management fads such as such as Six Sigma, reengineering, and total quality management have peeked out in their ability to improve organizational performance. So, what’s next? We believe the next frontier, the moon shot if you will, is quite simply leadership. But the questions remain: What is it, how is it practiced, and how do people learn to be leaders of the 21st century?
Let’s look at a couple of expert opinions. First from the Herman Group, a highly respected authority in human resource management:
“What worked for organizations pre–recession just isn’t sustainable in today’s environment. The current business environment affects the supply and demand of talent in unprecedented ways, as well as the ability of employers to engage and retain employees. Employers must respond to the revised “employee-employer contract” and employees’ evolving priorities. They must alter how they operate and how people may connect to their companies and work.”
These factors are not limited to the private sector. In fact, we believe the leadership “crisis” will first appear in the public sector when revenues decline by 25-to-33 percent in the next year. Specifically, communities that have been relatively homogenous since WWII are being forced to change the way they think and behave by three major forces. (We discussed these forces in the first chapter.) This discussion is about what you, as a leader, need to do to survive and thrive today. Tomorrow, the crisis will shift to tradecraft and next generation knowledge workers we’ve coined as “Artisan’s of Thought.”
Brief history of leadership development
Let us start with a quick look at how this issue of developing new leaders for modern times was addressed. Wikipedia says it best:
“Traditionally, leadership development has focused on developing the leadership abilities and attitudes of individuals. Different personal characteristics can help or hinder a person’s leadership effectiveness and require formalized programs for developing leadership competencies everyone can develop their leadership effectiveness. Achieving such development takes focus, practice and persistence more akin to learning a musical instrument than reading a book.”
Traditionally, leadership development has been focused on the individual level. It has been assumed that success in development is tied to three variables:
- Individual learner characteristics — such as temperament or personality
- Quality of the leadership development program — the military does it best
- Support from upper management levels — both in terms of money and social support
Further, most formal programs contain similar elements.
- They integrate many developmental experiences over an extended time period (e.g. 12-to-18 months)
- They are based on experiential learning
- They are founded on a principle of self-efficacy. That is people are taught to believe that their efforts can have an effect on the organization
- They originate from an ability to develop a clear vision of the desired state and this vision is communicated effectively
We believe that the time has come for a new model of leadership development — one based on the realities of the forces shaping our society as we enter the 21st century.
We are not suggesting that this approach is without merit. It certainly has worked well for decades. Entire organizations and numerous consulting practices have been built upon this model; for example, the renowned the Center for Creative Leadership and others. However, many authorities in the field have come recently to question the efficacy of continuing to use this model for leadership development. Likewise, we believe that the time has come for a new model of leadership development — one based on the realities of the forces shaping our society as we enter the 21st century.
New ways of thinking required
We’ve intimated that the world, which is emerging, is more interconnected, global and collaborative than what predominated over our (Western) culture over the past two centuries. The fundamental cognitive shift that is occurring is from a straight, linear, predictable world to a curvilinear, systemic, uncertain world. We have to begin looking at how we think, and perceive the world around us. Jake Chapman describes it well:
“Most people are not aware of how they think. This is not because they are unintelligent, it is because their mode of thinking has evolved over many years, has served them well and does not need to be examined or questioned. Most people are unaware of the degree to which they use mechanical images and metaphors. They are also unaware of the degree to which their fear of loss of control and uncertainty maintains their commitment to, and belief in, control and predictability. Individuals only become aware of these facets of how they operate either in crises or as a result of deliberate self-inspection.”
If this were the case, how would one go about developing a new leadership development program that takes all of this into account?
Part II of the series “Leadership for the 21st Century,” will discuss the fact that the change in management programs is not about transactions but about transformations.
Click here to learn more about ForeSight 2025.
 Herman Trend Alert: HR Responds to the Economy and Labor Market (Part 2) December 22, 2010