Leadership For The 21st Century: The Intersection Of The Traditional And The New


As we know, West Chester and Liberty Townships are very transient areas with an expanding global economy. To keep up with our ever-changing demographics and employee expectations, progressive business and community leaders are recognizing they need to be more inclusive in their thinking while developing new competencies that connect with today’s workforce.


Leaders today face new challenges due to the speed of technological, social and economic change. In a world of disruptive digital models, augmented workforces, flat organizations and an ongoing shift to team-based work practices, organizations are challenging their leaders to step up and show the way forward. CEO’s are being pressured to take a position on social issues; C-suite executives are being asked to work more collaboratively across functions; line leaders must learn to operate in networks of teams. But research has shown that while organizations expect new leadership capabilities, they are still largely promoting traditional models and mindsets – when they should be developing skills and measuring leadership in ways that help leaders effectively navigate greater ambiguity, take charge and engage with external and internal stakeholders.


Year after year, organizations struggle to find and develop future-ready leaders. In Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report for 2019, 80 percent of respondents rated leadership a high priority for their organization, but only 41 percent said they think their organizations are ready to meet their leadership requirements. The bottom line is; there is a leadership deficit in most organizations today. According to Chamber member Andy Foerster of Liberty Energy Engagement, 67 percent of employees do not identify or feel motivated to achieve their employer’s business goals and objectives, 40 percent feel discounted from their employers and 25 percent are just “showing up to collect a paycheck”.


Leadership pipelines and development are at a crossroads at which organizations must focus on both the traditional and the new. Organizations know that they must develop leaders for perennial leadership skills such as the ability to manage operations, supervise teams, make decisions prioritize investments and manage the bottom line. And they know that they must also develop leaders for the capabilities needed for the demands of the rapidly evolving, technology-driven business environment – capabilities such as leading through ambiguity, managing through increasing complexity, being tech-savvy, managing changing customer and talent demographics, and handling national and cultural differences.


It’s clear that many people believe that organizations have new leadership needs. 85 percent of the respondents to this year’s Global survey think that 21st century leadership has unique and new requirements that are important to their organization’s success. Topics such as inclusion, fairness, and social responsibility, understanding the role of automation and leading in a network were not part of the leadership platform a decade ago. And in the midst of these changes, many organizations are not satisfied with their leadership programs – only 30 percent say they are effectively developing leaders to meet evolving challenges.


Yet even though many organizations have changed their leadership models, updated their frameworks, and invested in new programs, the new context is the changing set of social and organizational expectations for how leaders should act and what outcomes they should aim for. In an era of social enterprise – the focus on financial, social and environmental well-being, people no longer believe that financial results are the only or primary measure on which a business’s success should be judged; they also judge organizations for the impact they have on the social and physical environment, as well as on their customers and the people who work for and with them. As a result, today leaders need to be more fully engaged with the challenges of the broader business and social environment.


Many organizations continue to struggle to put leaders in place with experience, capabilities and motivation to take on both old and new business challenges. Effective leadership in the 21stcentury means operating in a new context characterized by changing demographics and customer expectations, the influx of new technologies and a rapid pace of change. Leaders that are looking to refresh their view of this context should look to combine traditional expectations with new leadership competencies to help their organizations pursue sustainable success.


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