There are some facets of leadership that are constant. Character and integrity are vital. You must have willing followers. And you must be courageous. Those are some of the key components of effective leadership five years ago. They still are today and will be fifty years from now.
But so much of leadership is changing. In fact keeping pace as a leader has never been more difficult.
I interviewed several leaders whom I respect and follow. I asked each of them how leadership has changed over the past five years. To the person, each of them said that the changes have been fast and furious, and have demanded much of them. And though my study was not scientific, the responses were fascinating.
In summary, these leaders shared with me five reasons you can’t lead like you did five years ago.
1. The digital revolution affects all aspects of leadership.
We have observed the radical change in the music industry in this digital era. We are in the midst of another revolution in the print and book industry. But no organization is unfazed by the digital revolution. Leadership today demands we understand it and embrace it.
2. Social media is changing the landscape of leadership.
Social media is the great equalizer. No organization has an inherent communication advantage anymore. Leaders must embrace the many facets of social media or get left behind. It’s hard to believe I started tweeting in 2008. It seems like I’ve been doing it for a decade.
3. Leaders must manage information saturation.
There is no shortage of information. Leaders today have magazine subscriptions. RSS feeds to blogs, bookmarked Internet news sources, and many other sources of information.
The challenge for leaders today is to know what to read, to whom to listen, and how often to do both. Leaders must both stay current and relevant, and they must be willing to ignore and discard.
It takes wisdom to discern the helpful from the not-so-helpful.
4. Leaders must have a greater awareness of relational intelligence issues.
Leaders must understand and manage a plethora of organizational and social relationships.
They must deal with the soft issues of culture as well as the hard issues of numbers, products, services, and performance. Peter Drucker was on target and prophetic when he said “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (The quote is widely attributed to Drucker, but it was popularized in 2006 by Mark Fields, president of Ford Motor Company).
Now more than ever, leaders must understand relational and cultural issues, including a frank assessment of the person in the mirror.
5. Strategic thinking is more important than ever.
Culture may eat strategy for breakfast, but strategy is still vital. Leaders of organizations and leaders in organizations must anticipate the future with wisdom and discernment. The world is changing so rapidly that a leader can no longer have the luxury of simply carrying out assignments. He or she must anticipate and take risks. No organization that is standing still will be effective five years from now.
Obviously, these five factors are not mutually exclusive, nor are they comprehensive.
It is clear, however, that we must constantly be growing as a leader, or we will not be effective leaders in the years to come. Though the challenges are great, those challenges can lead to exciting and rewarding times.
How has leadership changed for you in the past five years or so?
What changes have you made to be a better leader to meet these new challenges? I would love to hear from you.