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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

21st Century Leadership

Dr. James Canton is a renowned global futurist. For over 30 years, he has been insightfully predicting the key trends that have shaped our world. He is a leading authority on future trends in innovation and The Economist recognizes him as one of the leading futurists, worldwide. Dr. Canton is CEO and Chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a leading think tank he founded in 1990 that advises business and government on future trends. He advises the Global Fortune 1000 on trends in innovation, financial services, health care, population, life sciences, energy, security, workforce, climate change and globalization.

In his book, The Extreme Future: The Top Trends That Will Reshape the World in the Next 20 Years, he says of 21st century leadership:

'There is a new era emerging that requires a new breed of leader. This new leader needs to have the ability to change and adapt quickly-with a future smart eye on what's possible. The 21st Century Leader recognizes that without keeping an eye on the future you may be doomed to remaining a prisoner of the past. With this eye on the future, the 21st Century Leader welcomes innovation, embraces change and thrives on chaos. The 21st Century Leader recognizes that only the smartest will survive the immense challenges of the future. The good news is that by preparing today we can successfully meet the challenges of the future. But what skills are necessary to survive in the future? What do you need to do today? How will this affect you? Why should you be concerned now?

Many leaders in business today seem so overwhelmed with their current workload that suggesting they prepare for the future may seem impractical. Just the opposite is true. By preparing today to meet tomorrow's challenges, we set in motion a new leadership paradigm, one that will help leaders better cope with today.

By developing a futurist-leaders' perspective, managers will learn new strategies for dealing with people and organizations. To improve your marketability and performance as a futurist-leader you need to understand: the nature of the future leadership challenges, the changing workforce, changes in your organization and how you can enhance your leadership ability.

We cannot hold back the forces of change. We cannot deny that our society and the very nature of business is changing daily. Yet some leaders resist change. Global commerce is redefining business in a virtual borderless world. But regardless of all of these changes organizations will still need leaders to lead. The role of the leader in the 21st century will be even more critical to the success of the organization than it is today. Business will become more stressful, competitive and chaotic. Leaders will be called upon to find order in chaos, fulfill customers and employees, plan for today and for tomorrow. It is the leaders who are the glue that will hold together the organization. Their intelligence and above all their ability to adapt will be a valuable asset.

There are leaders today that feel out of step with the future world that is growing up around them. These leaders need to learn new skills and new mindsets if they are to survive today and in the 21st century. It would be safe to assume that the 21st century will not be an easy, enjoyable stress-free time for business. But it shall also be a time of great challenges, opportunities, profits, innovation and imagination. Those leaders who understand this and have the foresight to prepare today to lay a foundation for learning, will be ahead of the game. Those that operate business as usual will be left behind. Preparing today for future challenges is a strategic endeavor worth every leader's effort. Rather then deny the change forces that are ushering us into the 21st century, leaders need to learn to ride these waves. By using change as an ally, even chaos can be instrumental to a leader's game plan.

Above all else the leader's ability to adapt to change will be a learning process. Much of the learning technology needed to fully cope with the challenges of the 21st century have yet to be developed. Nevertheless, a leader's openness to change, a capacity to take risks, an ability to experiment, keeping an open mind to new ideas and having an appetite for innovation will greatly help. This is an exciting time to be a leader. The 21st century welcomes us.

We need to develop a strategy so that we can navigate through these uncertain times. Remaining cautiously optimistic is not enough. A 21st Century Leader needs a 21st century strategy. Regardless of how chaotic, confused or stressful the 21st century will be, by preparing today, leaders can successfully meet the challenges of the future. Don't wait for the future to sneak up on you. A changing workforce, increased competition, a shifting marketplace and a lackluster economy will all contribute to the high stress roller coaster ride into the 21st century.'

Thoughts about Leadership

1. People follow the leader first and the leader’s vision second - It doesn’t matter if the leader shares a powerful vision, if the leader is not someone who people will follow the vision will never be realised. As a leader, who you are makes a difference. The most important message you can share is yourself.

2. Trust is the force that connects people to the leader and his/her vision - Without trust there is a huge gap between the leader and the vision. Without trust people will be disconnected. However if people trust the leader they will join the leader and help move the organisation forward towards the vision.

3. Leadership is not just about what you do but what you can inspire, encourage and empower others to do.

4. A leader brings out the best within others by sharing the best within themselves.

5. Just because you’re leading the team doesn’t mean you have the right to run over people - Abraham Lincoln said "Most anyone can stand adversity, but to test a man’s character give him power." The more power you are granted the more it is your responsibility to serve, develop and empower others. When you help them grow they’ll help you grow.

6. “Rules without Relationship Leads to Rebellion” - As a leader you can have all the rules you want but if you don’t invest in your people and develop a relationship with them they will rebel. This applies amazingly to children as well. It’s all about relationships.

7. Lead with optimism, enthusiasm and positive energy, guard against pessimism and weed out negativity.

8. Great Leaders know they don’t have all the answers. Rather they build a team of people who either know the answers or will find them.

9. Leaders inspire and teach their people to focus on solutions, not complaints.

10. Great leaders know that success is a process not a destination - John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, never focused on winning. He knew that winning was the by product of great leadership, teamwork, focus, commitment and execution of the fundamentals. As a leader focus on your people and process, not the outcome.

Women in Leadership

Over the past several years McKinsey has interviewed more than 85 women from around the world and across industries. These leaders share a few traits, including finding meaning in their work, seeing the world positively even after setbacks, and being unafraid to seize unexpected opportunities. Among the women who begin to tell their stories in this video are Andrea Jung, of Avon, Stella Rimington, a former director of British Intelligence, and Shelly Lazarus, CEO of Olgilvy & Mather.