Seven Evolving Leadership Qualities for the Twenty-First Century

    Are we on Leadership 2.0? 3.0? 17.0?

    Leadership must evolve to embrace new dynamics, focusing on engagement and buy-in – creating dialogue, stirring up participation, and driving people to focused, purposeful action.

    The “newest leadership” evolution brings seven new critical success factors, identified by Luke Iorio of iPEC, to the forefront.

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    Click through for seven critical success factors for the newest leadership evolution, as identified by Luke Iorio of iPEC.

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    It’s not just, “what’s the purpose of this project,” but instead, “what’s the purpose of this project to me.” People engage when they see themselves – their values, personal interests, vision and/or purpose – in what they’re about to do. Leaders must help employees put themselves into the overall corporate, team and project visions. Only when employees contribute to their jobs, projects and departments in a manner that’s consistent with their values and motivation will they fully commit and contribute to the overall company vision.

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    Leadership boils down to the moment of interaction – and in that moment, you can choose to influence and impact in ways that can be seen and felt immediately. To do this, you must be intentional as to how you’re going to use these thousands of moments (i.e., chances) that you get each day with your employees. Intentionally set up your guiding principles for how you want to show up as a leader in these moments. You know these moments will occur, so plan for them and you’ll be prepared and present in the moment, right when your employees need you the most.

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    Authority is a poor substitute for leadership. Job titles don’t indicate leadership. In fact, energy, influence and emotion are more salient elements of leadership than ever before. Power has shifted to those who know how to get answers (rather than those who think they already know the answers). Leaders must always remember that their energy leads more loudly than their position, that they’re far more visible than ever before, and that brilliant, spot-on ideas and contributions can come from any direction at any time.

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    Values for job security, stability and a fair paycheck have given way to autonomy, growth (through change) and performance incentives, balanced with quality of life incentives. Today’s workers are seeking jobs and companies that align with their values. Even in a tough job market, it’s often about finding “more than a job.” Self-expression, transparency and openness, fulfillment and passion are now words and expectations that leaders must consider as they lead a new generation of employees. Discussing values to define them together (not just individually, but as teams and departments) is becoming more and more important, and is part of the role of a leader.

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    Connecting the proverbial dots is an invaluable quality in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. Leaders and the teams they lead need to be able to step back from the details and supposed chaos and look for patterns – similarities between what’s occurring now and past experiences (even if not directly related in content), and to separate what’s working from what’s not working (and what underlying patterns or trends can be found). When leaders step back from a situation, they can gain a greater sense of perspective, typically from seeing more of the context (i.e., the elements surrounding what’s going on, not simply looking only at the issue itself).

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    It’s undeniable that you now work in a networked environment – whether socially, or “to get the job done,” you have those people in your network that you go to more often than others, and those “go to” people are the hubs that connect a great many people. Leaders need to know not only who their hubs are, but how those hubs are enabling or limiting their people network. Are those hubs energetically uplifting and engaging the rest of the network? Do they fuel performance and raise the abilities of others? Or are they toxic, bottlenecking or even wasting the energy, effort and capability of the people they connect with? As the leader, how are you leading those hubs?

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    Leaders need to strike a challenging balance – gaining efficiency from scale and systems, yet customizing approaches and strategies to recognize the unique traits of each individual they lead. Two principles from advances in learning approaches can help here. First, having relatively standardized options is a good start – providing leaders the ability to offer some choices to employees for training, development, benefits, career growth, etc. The second aspect that builds on this is coaching, which enables an individual to take universal principles or experiences and relate them to his/her specific circumstances – wrestling through how it applies for them. This process enables something that was standard, or more universal, to become highly customized and integrated into who that particular individual is and how they show up.

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