Finding Today's Leaders
Leaders and Resilience to change:
Great leaders are applauded for their successes but what also makes great leaders truly great is their resilience to adversity and failure. It is the experience of facing uncertainty and adversity and becoming resilient, that a leader is able to move from a good, competent leader to a really great leader. It takes a certain resilience and resolve to succeed today and throughout the Twenty-first Century.
The ability to bounce forward after a setback, to continue onward, to persevere, to take decisive corrective action, assess the risks, and have the courage to move forward are the skills that are important and valued for leaders in the Twenty-first Century.
The Demand for Leaders:
The demand for leaders is expected to far outpace the supply in the next decades. This means that organizations will face a leadership deficit and succession plans will be challenged. Organizations will need to perfect the art of identifying high-potential employees earlier and grooming them for future roles but first Senior Leaders will need to assess the leadership within the ranks of the organization. This is important because organizations attract the same type of people that make up the leadership of the organization currently. It has been said that Twenty-first Century leadership needs to be adaptive and that organizations are perfectly aligned to achieve the results that they are achieving. Additionally, organizations recruit the make-up of the organization currently so without a focused effort to take a different path or a new decisive effort to create what is needed in the future and missing in the organization today, an opportunity to build out the organization for the future will be lost. If you asked all of the Senior Leaders what types of individuals they want within the organization or think they need…more than likely they will say “high performing leaders capable of leveraging a diverse team.” Who the leader is as an individual is who they will, ultimately attract to the organization. If there is a gap in what currently exists and what is needed in the future to be successful, then there has to be an intention to change the organization’s talent acquisition and management strategy to ensure that high performing leaders are hired into the organization.
Leadership has been identified as a critical component in shaping an organization’s success. The concept of leadership is also one of the most extensively researched, studied, and debated topics in the field of organizational behavior and management. Within the literature and as a hotly debated topic, leadership is multidimensional and can be characterized in numerous ways. Leadership can be described as a set of behaviors and circumstances that enables an individual and an organization to adapt to any significantly changing environment. In other words, leadership defines what the future should look like for an organization and then aligns individuals employed within that organization with that vision and mission of the future by inspiring them to make any and all changes necessary regardless of the obstacles encountered.
Leaders vs. Managers:
Leaders need to be out in front leading others by showing the way. Leaders need to leverage the diversity of expertise on their team to create a shared vision and blaze a trail forward with a focused effort on delivering results. A manager, on the other hand, is successful in accomplishing a particular task even in the face of hardship and difficulty. Managers are focused on the work. A leader is people-focused; developing and inspiring individuals to higher performance. A leader has followers and a manager has workers or direct reports so why is this so important? The difference in the Twenty-first Century is profound. To lead in this century requires so much more than what is listed here.
Often a successful manager is rewarded with a leadership position but finds that they are ill-prepared to lead. The skillset needed in the Twenty-first Century is often not part of the in-house leadership development program. Why? Because the skills needed for leaders are evolving rapidly along with the pace of change. John Maxwell in Level V Leadership states that leaders are focused on fulfilling their vision and are prepared for barriers that will need to be surmounted. At Level III Leadership and above, the people follow the leader, not because they have to, but because they want to follow the leader and believe in the leader's vision. They are more committed and engaged and ready to knock-down any all barriers to ensure the leader's and the organization's success.
Leadership in the Past
There have been many individuals that have been admired for the leadership qualities: Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, and Mandela. Whether we agree with these individuals' politics or even like them, there is no debating that they fulfilled the definition and aspirations of leadership in every way. They were or are purpose-filled, disciplined, focused, tenacious, and able to lead with a vision aimed toward opportunity and the future.
Leadership in the Present
One can look at the world stage today and argue whether or not great leaders exist anymore. Leaders who can come together to solve world problems, improve the economic climate, and politically drive for peace.
I argue against this notion that there are no leaders today and believe there is a ray of hope. Yes, there may be a challenge finding leaders who can stand tall next to Margaret Thatcher, Churchill, or Mandela. But, what does exist is great local leaders. Leadership opportunities are ever present throughout the workplace and the community. Whether you look at the local church council, the Volunteer Food Bank, Coaching Little League Sports, the Boys and Girl Scout Organizations, or the school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), one can find local leaders that can make a difference in the lives of others and leverage many of the critical skills needed of solid leadership. These are today's leaders. Individuals who are on the frontlines committing to and contributing to their respective organizations and to the betterment of society.
Leadership in The Future
While there is still room for lots of growth and improvement in leaders and leadership in the U.S. and the world in the Twenty-first Century, the world is nonetheless an incredible place filled with civilizations who are more democratic, better educated, less disease-ridden, better fed, and full of possibilities and opportunities. The advancements may have occurred somewhat slowly over the past several hundred years but the pace and impact has been significant. The world needs leaders prepared to lead nations of individuals and organizations forward to harness the opportunities. The world needs great leaders who are purpose-driven, vision-filled, people-focused, collaborative, adaptive, agile and dedicated to driving forward through obstacles and challenges at a pace that is reflective of these turbulent times.
I am not sure where all of the leaders have gone but the more important question is how organizations can create, develop, and leverage leaders that are present today and in the immediate future. This is an official call for all leaders – raise your hand, your efforts are needed.