The 21st Century seems to be demanding a shift in leadership style, character and application – gone are the days of autocracy, manipulation, selfishness, greed and meanness (at least, we would like them to be gone). Our chaotic world (social, business, political, etc.) is calling for sensibility and sustainability, but very few are answering the call. In fact, Mish Middelmann from Organisation and Relationship Systems Coaching, suggests that there is a calling for a “big shift” in leadership, but leaders unfortunately don’t know how to make the shift. They talk about relationships, engagement, sustainability, collaboration and economic growth, but don’t possess the skills to communicate effectively, lead conflict well and serve compassionately. They talk about valuing diversity and inclusion, but build “sameness” around themselves. They talk about wealth creation, but are not involved in communities that live in proximity to their factories and offices. They talk about “going green” and saving the planet, but don’t apply budget to find alternatives to processes that pollute and answers to energy inefficiencies. A lack of integrity in many leaders is crippling our world.

Middelmann suggests that people are expecting, on the one hand, more from leaders and on the other hand, expecting less from them. I agree with him and suggest the outworking of this concept in the following areas –

  • Creating more opportunities for diversity and inclusion for the purpose of generating new ideas, instead of driving strategic agendas too narrowly
  • Admitting that there are potentially “many right answers” to problems and challenges rather than exclusively pushing one main thrust
  • Deliberately exploring diversity rather than appointing “sameness” within their respective institutions
  • Asking the right questions rather than having all the answers
  • Involving and engaging employees rather than telling them what to do
  • Talking more about the “big picture” expectations and vision rather than being problem-centred in approach
  • Celebrating small “wins” rather than finding fault
  • Recognising exceptional contribution appropriately rather than “snooper-vising” daily activities
  • Developing the skills necessary to handle conflict and move confidently into ambiguity rather than defaulting into avoidance
  • Tap also into the wisdom of women rather than just following old “male models” of thought processing
  • Actively be present (physically and emotionally) rather than passive distance

The 21st Century is demanding a shift from leaders – a leadership that is able to resonate with the pain and suffering in the world and answer it with care and compassion; a leadership that understands the many crises that the world is facing and applies budget to finding solutions; a leadership that is able to hold the space of healthy dialogue, even if in opposition to personal views and a leadership that is prone to ask the right questions, not necessarily having all the answers.

A leadership shift is necessary – in style, in approach and in intention. This leadership shift is one of selflessness, compassion, vision and integrity. It purposefully holds a space within an ambiguous environment with the confidence that answers will emerge if sufficient diversity is present.

Free To Grow offers Engaging Leadership workshops and processes to address the necessary leadership shifts of the 21st Century

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