Leadership in the 21st Century

News report originally published in Training Journal March 2012

Innovative risk-taking “feels like breaking the rules”, said David Archer yesterday at Training Journal’s Leadership in the 21st Century event in London.

One of the key topics discussed by a variety of attendees and speakers was the future skill set for Learning and Development, which highlighted: influencing; asking the right questions; encouraging and developing cross-fertilisation of ideas; and senior relationships/collaboration.

Archer, Director at consultancy firm Socia, also focused on the need of future leaders to deliver results across boundaries where they don’t have direct control and to get the right balance of governance, operations and behaviour in order for this to work.

Graham O’Connell, L&D Strategy & Curriculum Lead at Civil Service Learning, echoed Archer’s comments: that there was no magic answer and “the very best leaders don’t conform to one single model”. The changing world means leaders of “large companies need to collaborate across countries and cultures to interplay together”. In developing leaders, O’Connell commented that in focusing too much on the positive traits there was a “danger of denying the negative, that on the cusp is great strength” and that leaders needed “self-awareness to make choice” in the yin-yang of skills.

“Thrive through change is now the day job” was the message from Penny de Valk, CEO at people development consultancy Fairplace Cedar. de Valk said that the future leader needs to be the facilitator of teams to get to new solutions and that competency and integrity through self-awareness to get high trust in an organisation is needed to generate high value. This would drive anxiety out of organisations, so that fearful managers would not ‘command and control’, therefore choke innovation. de Valk stressed that “boldness is not recklessness”.

Change was also the starting point for Mayvin Director Martin Saville. The discussion was of leadership in the 21st Century meaning greater expectations, to and of organisations, customers, staff, demographics and leaders themselves; more networks and connections; a faster pace; and less predictability. Saville focused towards the end of the day on the often-perceived binary tension between energy of people in organisations versus the “containment” that restricts them and how the question can arise of “how do I lead if I give my power away?” The 21st Century leader needs to see how to have that energy channelled. Mayvin, specialists in delivering detailed and mindset-challenging leadership courses, is collaborating with Training Journal on an action-research programme developing a new generation of leaders ready for business life in the 21st century.

Jo Cook

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