Recently, I provided the keynote speech at a large leadership conference and shared a talk about what makes a leader effective, along with the new competencies of leadership in the 21st century.
To start my talk I shared my twitter handle (@linalharris) with the audience to provide them a way to ask questions, since there was no opportunity for Q&A at the end of my presentation.
After finishing my speech, I stuck around for about 30 minutes to answer some questions from a group of listeners that had begun queuing near the stage.
Most of the people in the line gave compliments and asked thought-provoking questions that related to the material I shared, however one person didn’t share their perspectives. In fact, she was quite offended about a number of points I made in my talk. Overall, what offended her most was the references I made about the wave of trends in technology and how I suggested great leaders should handle them. To finalize her displeasure, she then chastised me for mentioning Twitter and also for making myself available exclusive to audience members who used Twitter.
I thanked her for her feedback and suggested she check Twitter out sometime, to which she just scoffed, turned her back, and then walked away.
Unfortunately, this leader didn’t really understand the competencies I shared for being a successful 21st century leader. Thus, I’ve decided to share a breakdown of these skills once again for a much larger audience, in a written format this time.
1. Understands how what’s happening now, will predict and impact what will happen later.
Good leaders understand the change management process and how to lead their teams through change. A great 21st century leader not only has a change management competence, but they also can identify today’s trends and use them to predict and understand the environment in which they’ll have to compete and lead tomorrow.
2. Knows the importance of self-care.
The stress of leading in the fast paced, ever-changing environment of today’s marketplace can feel downright impossible at times. That’s why any leader that wants to be consistently successful has to be sure to focus on their well-being. Nothing will prevent a leader from rising to the occasion, like stress, coupled with fatigue. Twenty percent of the body’s energy is consumed daily by the brain. I’m sure that percentage jumps a bit when you’re solving complex business problems all day. Good leaders don’t check out of the game because they don’t care; they check out of the game because they’re fatigued or sick.
3. Confident enough to be vulnerable and authentic.
As humans beings we’re adept at identifying a fraud and nobody wants to follow a fraud. Leaders who believe they can deceive their teams into thinking they’re being REAL, will eventually find out that they’ve lost the respect of the people they’re trying to lead. As leaders we often ask our employees to take the risk of baring their souls and telling us what’s wrong or where they need help, yet we refuse to lead by example. Nothing can undermine a leader more than being a FAKE. Get REAL!
4. Appreciating Differences.
The 21st century workplace is already diverse, but within the next decade it will be more diverse. Workplace diversity is partly a consequence of globalization and the United States changing demographics. As more companies begin to understand the tangible link between their workforce diversity and overall profitability, these companies will push to have more diversity at all levels of their organization. Leaders that lack a competence in inclusion will eventually find themselves unmarketable, despite the other expertise they may have.
5. Leads all the time, not just when it’s convenient.
Great leaders don’t wait around for the optimal situation or circumstance to step in and lead. Instead, they step into the chaos and mayhem to lead and problem solve thereby bringing about order and refuge.
6. Technically savvy.
We live in a brand new era. The industrial revolution is over and we are two and a half decades into the information age. Computers, mobile devices, the World Wide Web and social media are the cornerstones of this era. Almost 100% of all Fortune 500 companies play in or on the four cornerstones I just mentioned. How can any leader expect to advance, grow and develop if they refuse to learn how to use ALL these tools proficiently? When you refuse to use a smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter, you’re not hurting those companies; you’re only damaging your own relevance as a marketable leader in the next decade. Stop fooling yourself and CHANGE!
7. Always learning.
There’s been more data produced in the last two years than what was produced in all-time. (Yeah…re-read that!) It’s important for all us to understand we’ll never be able to absorb all the information that is at our fingertips via the World Wide Web, but we can use the Internet as a tool to become experts at our craft. Google is an amazing teacher if you’re willing to spend the time in her classroom.
That’s just seven skills or competencies.
The shifting tides of the 21st century will require much more from leaders who want to succeed than I have listed here. What other skills would you say a 21st century leader would need to succeed in the next decade?
I know inspiration is a much-needed competency too. So be sure stay inspired, it’s a lifestyle choice!