In Search of Leaders Who Lead

The 21st century organization requires bold leaders who understand they live in a world of opportunity to create and lead others around a shared purpose. Unfortunately, the system is still massively broke. Most so called leaders are stuck leading 20th century organizations where they delegate their responsibilities to functions. Someone else ghostwrites their blogs and makes sure diverse teams are built. And then they wonder why they have a disengaged and homogenous workforce.

Stuck in the Old World

We have old world concepts like engagement and empowerment flying around the corporate walls. No one really wants to admit they don't know what they mean or more importantly, what to do with them. Have you ever seen an empowered workforce? Was it words on a PowerPoint slide or an HBR article?

Listening has become a transactional event of running an annual employee survey or performance management meeting. Why have we lost the ability to conduct two-way conversations whenever they are needed? Why is it that we talk to our customers regularly and then practice archaic management practices when it comes to what we publish on our Intranets as our "most important assets"? Why are people still called headcount where on a financial spreadsheet, furniture is an asset and people are a liability?

Waking up to the New Reality

It's time to wake up and realize it's a new century in a world of possibilities and opportunities that are not in the mainstream but on the edges. Leadership today is also on the edges since we don't have to follow the prescribed solutions that don't work in our new world of work. Leaders who get this no longer delegate their communication to a function. They work out loud and experiment while leading with conscious purpose.

Some Leaders Are Breaking Through

I am lucky enough to partner with such a leader and see her in action building an engaged network of innovators. She listens and takes risks. She doesn't wait for the annual survey to listen. She brings in the best internal an external talent to drive her organization to the next level. I have experienced one brave leader who leads through creating and doing.

And we need many more to practice conscious leadership as the workforce is changing so fast and those who are stuck will not survive what is about to take place in the world of work. No technology in the world will help unless we start shifting and integrating the technology into our business rather than trying to lead with it, which ultimately fails. It's about re-imagining leadership in a post-hero world where every person can make a difference.

And it's definitely not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. There is no cookie cutter approach as the new model of leadership requires knowing how to deal with failure and disappointment and stepping into unchartered territory. The 21st century leader is a dreamer who sees the possibilities by creating new markets. She leaves the job for competing for marketshare to someone else. And she knows how to tap into people in all generations across all geographies with drive and purpose on a human level. This leader manages a connected network that leads to co-creation and a world where change is not managed but just is part of the flow of how business works.

Do you know 21st century leaders? What makes them lead with the courage to be vulnerable and create healthy organizations that thrive?