7 Keys to Effective Leadership in the 21st Century
Effective leadership in the 21st Century requires a complex and varied portfolio of leadership competencies
7 Keys to Effective Leadership in the 21st Century: Improve Executive Performance and Fulfill High-Impact Potential
Effective leadership in the 21st Century requires a complex and varied portfolio of leadership competencies such as driving for business results, working with others, building effective groups, and technological proficiency, etc. Twenty-first century leaders also need enhanced cognitive skills and abilities, such as communicating effectively, problem solving, interpersonal skills, skills in human relations, teamwork, decisiveness and tenacity, and ability to develop organizational capabilities.
However, most business leaders are stuck in the old leadership model: organizational hierarchies influenced by two World Wars and the Depression, and structured along military lines, with multilayered structures to establish control through rules and processes.
In the past, people climbed the ranks in search of power, status, money, and privileges that came with rank. However, things are different now. The hierarchical model simply no longer works. Bill George, in The New 21st Century Leaders, writes, “During the last half of the 20th century, business leadership became an elite profession, dominated by managers who ruled their enterprises from the top down.
Effective leaders focused on internal and external stakeholders are replacing hierarchical leaders who focus on serving short-term shareholders.
Mark David Nevins and Stephen Stumpf, in 21st Century Leadership: Redefining Management Education wrote that educating managers in the modern era posit, “The most successful leaders in the 21st Century effectively manage multiple points of view simultaneously and empathize with all stakeholders in order to develop people.” The authors added that the common characteristics of these effective leaders are focused on the intangible aspects of an organization. These leaders are effectively leading people with self-leadership, authenticity, integrity, honesty, and accountably, simultaneously developing relationships and promoting collaboration and teamwork.
Glenn Llopis in The Primary Reason Leaders Are Failing In the 21st Century, wrote that some first-time entrepreneurs continue living under an identity crisis as managers and fail to, or are unwilling to, evolve as leaders. These entrepreneurs fail to embrace entrepreneurship as an attitude and a way of life and continue to maintain the status quo of one-size-fits-all managerial model. They manage their organizations and people instead of becoming leaders who lead the organization and its people to evolve continually. These entrepreneurs remain stuck in a cycle of complacency and the activities associated with it. Llopis adds that the 21st century workplace demands we embrace an entrepreneurial attitude that is transparent, flexible, trustworthy, and adaptable, and we must empower other people to do the same.
One of my previous coaching clients, Andrew (pseudonym) – CEO of a start-up, was ambitious, hardworking, and street savvy. Prior to the start-up, he had been working in union shop environment. In the past, he owned several small businesses without a demonstrable success. Within eight months of the latest start-up, the business was at the brink of failure.
Andrew reached out to me for help. To identify the issues and perceptions, I interviewed him and the staff individually and used the following three assessment instruments.
The personality assessment instrument (ADVanced Insight) identifies what natural talents the individual possesses based on how he or she thinks and makes decisions, why he or she is motivated to use them based on his or her motivators and drivers, and how the individual prefers to use them based on his or her preferred behavioral style.
The Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile Instrument identifies an individual’s social and emotional intelligence strengths and development opportunities. The profile measures the 26 competencies identified as critical in socially and emotionally intelligent individuals, families, teams, and organizations.
The Attitudinal Assessment enables leaders to hold up mirrors to their perceptions, attitudes, behaviors, and overall leadership capabilities. The Energy Leadership Index used in this assessment provides insights into various aspects of an individual’s life by measuring his or her potential leadership ability, level of consciousness, and awareness about whom he or she is and what is important in his or her life.
Collectively, from the assessment outcomes and personal interviews, I gathered that he demonstrated signs of failing to lead himself, exhibited unwanted behaviors in front of others, and he often failed to ask for help. He possessed an exaggerated view of his own value and contribution; set unrealistic, overly ambitious, and unattainable goals for himself and others; showed an inability to admit mistakes; blamed others for mistakes; and showed resistance to accept feedback or criticism, etc.
Andrew and I customized a leadership and team development program and decided to focus on areas such as authentic and self-leadership, integrity and accountability, and how to inspire and motivate. Additionally, the developmental plan included setting goals and integrating the process to drive results.
He also wanted to learn how to build relationships with his staff, promote teamwork, learn how to recognize and manage effectively his own emotions and his staff’s emotions. Last, we decided to work on becoming aware of communication circumstances, setting and keeping boundaries, leading by asking questions, asking what if questions, and exploring and managing polarity.
During the program, we focused on learning the following keys to effective leadership in the 21st Century:
Key 1: Effective Leaders Are Empathetic and Emotionally Intelligent
Emotional intelligence is the key component of effective leadership. Emotional intelligence is a critical requirement of leadership. Daniel Goleman, in his article “What makes a Leader,” stated the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of emotional intelligence. Goleman emphasizes that it is not that Intelligence Quotient and technical skills are irrelevant. He stresses that technical skills and Intelligence Quotient matter; however, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. He points that research clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the essential, and critical for effective leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world; an incisive, analytical mind; and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still will not make a great leader.
Goleman introduced four elements (cornerstones) of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness (empathy, or compassion for others), and social skills, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.
Simply put, emotional intelligence is understanding our emotions, strengths and weaknesses, and what impact they have on others; disciplining and controlling our disruptive thoughts and emotions and adapting to changing circumstances; understanding others’ point of view and how they feel in certain situations; making deep connections with others; and the ability to communicate effectively.
The development plan for Andrew included understating and practicing the concepts of self-awareness and self-regulation to improve his self-leadership potential.
To incorporate the emotional intelligence principles, Andrew’s developmental plan included a two-step process of journaling and observing: (1) his own emotions, values, perspectives, strengths, weaknesses, leadership tendencies, and emotional needs; focusing and managing his emotions, leadership abilities, and capacity in decision-making; and (2) the needs of others and his ability to grow and motivate other people.
Understanding, incorporating, and practicing the principles of emotional intelligence helped Andrew improved his ability to manage and understand his own and others’ emotions, and succeed in influencing productivity, efficiency, and collaboration. He was able to placate disagreements and conflicts and develop an effective workplace. Andrew realized that self-perceptions, self-absorption, self-justifications, and selfishness were holding him back from succeeding in his personal and professional lives.
Key 2: Effective Leaders Practice Self-Leaderships with Authenticity
Effective leadership begins with self-leadership. According to Andrew Bryant and Ana Kazan, in Self-Leadership: How to Become a More Successful, Efficient, and Effective Leader from the Inside Out, “Self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviors to achieve your objective/s.” Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going, coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behaviors on the way to getting there.”
Ayman Sawaf and Robert Cooper, in Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations, write that the focus of self-leadership development potential are the four cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.
People want to be with someone who is real and someone they can trust. Authentic leaders realize that they cannot be authentic on their own. To earn the trust of their employees, authentic leaders need to be self-aware and genuine, act the same at work and outside of work, and behave ethically, demonstrating integrity at all times and in every situation. Authentic leaders are always mindful of their strengths and weaknesses, values, and moral standards, and are aware of how they impact and serve others. In addition, they are always trustworthy and transparent, defer to a person’s ability, and are nonjudgmental.
Andrew worked on increasing his ability to become self-aware by acknowledging, understanding, and becoming conscious of his values, perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses. Next, we worked on his ability to nurture and harness his passion, abilities, emotions, and capacity for making decisions.
We also focused on improving his social awareness, which is the ability to acknowledge and recognize the passion, strengths, weaknesses, potential, and needs of others. Finally, we worked on relationship management, which is the ability to grow and motivate other people to develop their potential and fulfill the organization’s objectives.
He realized and learned that people find out, sooner or later, when he was not being his authentic self and learned to ensure that his words were consistent with his deeds at all times. Andrew learned that accomplishing consistency in his deeds at all times would require sharing self-disclosure and self-knowledge with others, and seeking and giving authentic feedback.
Key 3: Effective Leaders Display High Integrity, Honesty, and Accountability
Integrity is doing the right thing in a reliable way. Often equated with courage, integrity is also interpreted as work ethic, such as doing things right for the people and the company.
John Zenger and Joseph Folkman, in Making Yourself Indispensable: The Power of Personal Accountability wrote that of all the facets of character, integrity is the most critical facet that builds valuable trust between people. Leaders with integrity are authentic, consistent, accountable, and lead by example.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, in The Leadership Challenge, wrote honesty is essential to a leader’s legitimacy, credibility, and ability to develop trust with followers. Honesty is about being fair, truthful, sincere, transparent, and open and various other aspects of moral character, such as keeping your word, following through on promises, and delivering on time, etc.
Leaders with integrity ignore self-interest and personal gain, pursue the best for others by doing best for those they lead, and protect the organization’s resources. Leaders with integrity always keep their people in mind. They constantly look for ways to do better for their people and take responsibility to do a better job as a leader, by leading by example.
Our focus for this exercise was building the goodness in and around him by being good to his people, by being honest with himself and others, by being predictable in his reactions, by judging people fairly, and by controlling his emotions. Our focus was gaining the trust and respect of his people by being open, honest, and maintaining integrity. Andrew also worked on sticking to his values, no matter what the outside pressures, stresses, or temptations were.
He focused on honest dealings, predictable reactions, fair judgements, and controlling his emotions. Andrew learned that treating others the way you want to be treated is the core principle of integrity, honesty, and accountability. He also learned that when he leads by example, he is setting the foundation for appropriate workplace behavior that others would follow.
He learned that to be successful, he has to learn and practice to be his true self and he should never stray and mold himself to meet anyone, or everyone else’s desires or views. He learned that the reason he is not getting the results he wants is the lies that he keeps telling himself, trying to be someone he is not. He has to be accountable himself in desires, designs, and intention.
Key 4: Effective Leaders Communicate Powerfully and Effectively
Communication is more than the words we speak. Gallup found that engagement is highest among employees who have some form of daily communication about their roles and responsibilities, but also about what happens in their lives outside work. Effective communication is skillful, clear, concise, open, transparent and easily understandable by others, and critical to effective leadership. Effective leaders communicate by asking questions instead of telling. Effective leaders understand the importance of asking better questions to help build positive relationships.
Edgar Schein, in Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling argues that we live in a world that believes our role as professionals is to “fix and tell” rather than “listen and inquire.” He suggests that effective communicators practice the art of inquiring and asking questions instead of telling the supposed answers. “Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions, to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person,” Schein wrote. He argues that telling “puts the person down.”
In discussions with Andrew, we found that his communication was telling people what to do instead of asking proactively and intuitively. We worked on techniques such as opening the lines of communication to seek understanding of the situation, talking less and listening more, communicating diplomatically and tactfully in situations such as interpersonal conflicts, conducting result-focused meetings, and stressing the importance of focusing on the issue and not the person, etc.
In addition, Andrew worked on honing his effective communication skills that included clarity of perspective, delivering precise and tactful messages, listening, and understating the nature of conflict. Most importantly, he understood that his employees wanted, more than anything else, to be heard, listened, and understood with empathy and compassion.
He cannot succeed if he does not strive to become a good communicator. Andrew learned that effective leaders are great at communication, and at big talk. He learned that effective communication has power, the power to influence and encourage or discourage, and the power to effective leadership.
Key 5: Effective Leaders Inspire and Motivate Others
Charismatic leaders are effective and very skilled communicators. Charismatic leaders attract and influence others to achieve remarkable outcomes. However, I contend that to inspire and motivate others leaders need to be much more than just charismatic. Different leaders inspire and motivate differently. Some inspire and motivate by being visionary, principled, enthusiastic, optimistic, and driven, whereas others inspire and motivate by enhancing their followers by encouraging, by being aware of their followers’ needs, or by giving good feedback. Effective leaders are not experts; they surround themselves with experts and inspire and motivate them to excel.
Inspirational leaders find out what their people need, give, and receive honest feedback. They influence and motivate others by setting examples and walking-the-talk, by becoming the role model, and doing what they say they will do. Effective leaders are humble and they lead by asking humble questions. They invest in their people’s wellbeing and often ask them about it. A Gallup study revealed that employees who feel as though their managers are invested in them as people are more likely to be engaged.
Andrew worked on becoming aware of his team members’ personal situations and showing genuine concern in their wellbeing and what happens in their lives outside of work.
We practiced appropriate appreciation and encouragement, setting good examples, and giving meaningful feedback. Andrew was able to win over his team members by being respectful, and by making them feel comfortable talking about any subject, even if it was not work related.
One significant thing Andrew learned was to stop micromanaging, by stepping back and trusting and letting his people do their jobs and reminding his team members that their hard work really matters and makes a difference in their customers’ lives. He gradually became effective in encouraging his employee’s personal growth and helping them overcome their weaknesses, perceived or real. Andrew diligently worked on his communication deficiencies that had caused disengagement and doubt in his people’s minds by gauging their needs, wants, and expectations.
Most important, he learned to achieve his goals he needed to communicate enthusiastically a clear and compelling vision, make emotional connections, inspire, motivate, and engage his people to collaborate by encouraging and challenging them to be more innovative and productive.
Key 6: Effective Leaders Align Organizational Mission, Vision, and Values to Individuals’ Goals and Values
Effective leaders realize the key to helping employees feel positively about their work is aligning the organizational mission, vision, and values to individuals’ goals and values, and that communicating that vision to employees, making it part of their day-to-day activities, helps employees see and understand the impact of their work.
Larry Myler, in Strategy 101: It’s All about Alignment, wrote that aligning organizational mission, vision, values, and meaningful purpose to individuals’ goals, values, and purpose reinforces and gives an organization a major advantage because everyone has a clear sense of what to do at any given time. Effective leaders who align the organization’s vision and their own vision into viable strategies and goals lead to organizational and individual success.
Andrew worked with his team members to envision and define a common future, creating a strategy, focusing on their company’s competitive advantage, and communicating change in how they conduct and set targets to bring their organization’s vision and strategy into every team member’s daily work.
Key 7: Effective Leaders Build Relationships, Develop Others, Collaborate and Promote Teamwork
According to Jean Leslie, building relationships is one of the strongest skill sets related to leadership effectiveness. Relationships and collaboration are essential, but neither negates the need for strong leadership. Angela Ahrendts, retail chief at Apple, said, “Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.”
Effective leaders realize that the measure of effective leadership lies in the results a leader achieves by inspiring others and by embracing and nurturing the need for relationships and collaboration.
Effective leaders collaborate and get along with others.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn’s advice to a young Lyndon Johnson was, “If you want to get along, go along!” In Great Leaders Build off Great Relationships, John Baldoni writes that an effective leader must be able to build relationships and create communities of practice, actions, and values. These communities provide opportunities to network and to become involved with others who share like values.
To quote Peter F. Drucker: “Every enterprise requires commitment to common goals and shared values.” Leaders look to these values as the basis for action. Values are important ideals that guide our priorities and are core to an organization. Values tie people together, set vision, and affect what we do as organizations and communities.
Collaboration is what happens in any organization or community. How well is it done depends on how well the leader promotes and nurtures collaboration and teamwork.
Andrew promoted collaboration and teamwork by asking questions, really listening, developing a mutual commitment, and supporting their decisions. He realized this goal by making sure that his expectations were clear and understood, and by communicating that the outcome(s) will benefit everyone. Andrew communicated his support, established the ground rules, and clarified goals and expectations. He also involved the staff to organize the process.
Do Your Most Valuable Executives Lack Effective Executive, People Management, and Leadership Skills?
I would love to hear your #1 takeaway from these 7 Keys to Effective Leadership in the 21st Century.
The wonderful thing about effective organizations is that people do not have to be individually perfect to succeed. They just have to be perfect together. However, upcoming demographic changes, exodus of baby boomers in leadership positions into retirement. This will make developing leadership bench strength an even greater challenge for organizations to resolve in order to remain competitive in the future.
In summary, I help to develop the next generations of managers and leaders by improving their performance and maximizing their potential so that they possess these qualities and this becomes their norm
• Practice self-leadership
• Display high integrity, honesty, and accountability
• Communicate powerfully and effectively
• Inspire and motivate others
• Empathize with emotional intelligence
• Learn to set, stretch goals, and drive for results
• Align organizational mission, vision, and values to individuals goals and values
• Build relationships, develop others, collaborate, promote teamwork
• Analyze issue and solve problems with strategic perspective
• Champion change and take initiative
• Delegate and direct strategically
I provide a ‘safe place’ for your most valuable executives and high impact performers to help improve their people management and leadership abilities by bridging the gap between ordinary and extra-ordinary, identifying their unique skills and competencies, clarifying and quantifying their strengths, defining and setting goals, improving their communication, delegation, and conflict management; and team building with collaboration, emotional support, empathy, and encouragement.
The bottom-line is business growth higher profitability – and we guarantee the outcome.
Call 310.928.3501 for a free 30-minute consultation with me to see if we could be the right fit to work together.
Dr. Shahid Sheikh has been consulting internationally since 1987, and coaching professionally since 2013 – and has loved just about every minute of it! With over 40 years of management and leadership experience, he now helps high-impact executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs succeed in their careers and achieve exceptional business results thru self-leadership.
In addition to a Doctorate in Organization Change, he is also certified at the ACC level by the ICF (International Coach Federation).