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Workplace Engagement InsightsLatest Employee Engagement NewsWhat Makes a Great 21st Century Leader? [Video]

What Makes a Great 21st Century Leader? [Video]

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In her excellent TED Talk, leadership expert Roselinde Torres provides us with a challenge as to how we can build a leadership team that will give our company a sustainable advantage. How can we build a culture of true leadership?  

Torres references a study wherein 58% of companies surveyed cited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles. Companies are failing to grow enough great leaders because, as she states in her talk, “the leadership development programs are based on success models for a world that was, not a world that is or is coming”.

TED TalkShe goes on further, to say: “Relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader. In fact, traditional assessments like narrow 360 surveys or outdated performance criteria will give you false positives, lulling you into thinking that you are more prepared than you really are.”

Instead, Torres identifies three key elements for leadership. These are not revelations, but rather remind us to look intently at how we are building our company culture:

1.     The Ability to Anticipate Change and Prepare before Your Competitors Do

The key to doing this is building a process in your team to help them move away from the current business model and thinking (I call this our “Island of Explanation”). The process must allow leaders to challenge what they think they know by bringing in widely diverse topics and knowledge, and weaving it into a coherent perspective on our world as we see it. 

I have an example of this from my past life in the insurance industry. We were presented with two interesting files on new topics. The first was the coming of genetic profiling and the second was telematics (the ability to use the equivalent of the “black box” from airplanes). The team discussed how these disparate advancements might impact our industry in the future. In the case of the first item, we talked about the potential impact on how life insurance would be underwritten and even about the potential to open up a whole new line of business for building up assets to deal with a critical illness. On the second technology brought forward, we talked about how it could dramatically change underwriting and claims adjudication in the auto insurance field.

Without a process in place to present the leadership team with new information and facilitate discussion, they may not anticipate change until it’s too late.

2.     The Best Leaders Have a Diverse Network

What is the value of this? If you are constantly vigilant about your future, you need to have thinkers around you who bring a diversity of perspectives – and most importantly, to be able to weave those into a coherent view of how it might alter your business.

3.     Leaders Are Not Afraid to Take Action and Abandon the Past

Sometimes, leaders must cannibalize their own business model in order to get ahead of the competition. How are we to do this in a world of Wall Street and Bay Street demanding monthly performance, quarterly earnings targets, and punitive reports when a company doesn’t perform on target?

This can only be done when the Board of Directors and the leadership team work together with the courage to take the long view of value and not the short-term view of short-term investors, hedge funds and so on.

Watch the Video

Enjoy the video!


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Written by Dwight Lacey

Dwight Lacey

Dwight is the President at Workplace Engagement Insights. He leads Workplace Engagement Insights with a clear understanding of the latest employee engagement research, survey best practices, and leadership styles that create successful businesses.

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