Are You Ready to Lead in the 21st Century?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO

Leaders in this century will need to be different.  Why?  Because our emerging economy – and world as we know it – now demands it.  We have been witnessing a fundamental change in our way of life for some time now.  The speed of change and technology adoption has been exponential.  We have seen once dominant companies be swept away by new start-ups that became the next dominant company.  Remember AOL?  Remember the first IBM?  Where did Google, Facebook, and Uber come from?  How did they grow so quickly to dominate their industries?  So much has changed in such a short period of time.  And, the change is only getting faster and faster.

I believe that it took – and still requires – a new 21st Century Leader to create these entirely new businesses or to recreate, like the new IBM, existing businesses that thrive.  Sure, it takes great technology.  Sure, it takes awesome people.  But, the key ingredient to each of these success stories is a new kind of leader.

First, let me say, the new kind of leader capable of thriving in the 21st Century is still evolving.  It’s relatively early in this new economy and the kind of leader needed to thrive within it is still being created.  But, we do have insights into what is needed.  We can begin to know what it will take to be really good at leading in today’s successful organizations – and tomorrow’s thriving businesses.  From where I sit, it is an extension of the successful leader of the 20th Century.

The foundations of a great leader begin with the key attributes that have been needed for some time.  The leader must be skilled, disciplined, principled, committed to success, and goal-oriented.  They must care for their team; focus on serving their customers’ needs; and be of the highest character and integrity.  These qualities seem to still all be necessary.  However, they are no longer enough.  Successful 21st Century leaders will need to be even more.

What do they –and will they – need?  I have seen the following qualities emerging in successful leaders.  They must be able to change – themselves – and lead team and organizational change.  Fast!  They must be builders of networks, of contributors, and of partners.  Some of these individuals and organizations will be paid – and many of them will work on the joint effort for free.  They will learn to run digital systems that make what they do radically different from what was done in their industry in the past.  These capabilities allowing leaders to be change agents, network builders, and digital masters – are emerging as next generation skills needed to thrive as a 21st Century leader.  Do you have them?  Are there other skills that you see needed?  How do we get them and teach them to our teams?  These and other questions must now organize our efforts to determine if we are ready to lead in the 21st Century.  I know I am excited about answering these questions!  Are you?

Note:  If you would like to join me in an on-going conversation about 21st Century Leadership, please let me know.  I am building a network of executives that are interested in this pursuit.