The Modern Leader
Successful leaders hold behaviors, qualities, skills and competencies enabling them to navigate the challenges and evolving demands of the organizational landscape. In order to equip leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to respond to changes in organizations and employee behavior, this document presents shifts in leadership demand alongside the qualities and behaviors modern leaders should possess to successfully lead others. Additionally, this document presents a leadership style perspective leaders should consider to respond to and effectively lead in the 21st century.
Shifts in Leadership Focus
The foundation of the modern leader, and the requirements for successful leadership, are based in the shifting focus points within the organizational setting. Four of the shifting areas include shifting societal values, a shift in investor focus, shifting leader expectations to lead organizational change, and a shift in focus on employee stress. Each of these evolving areas presents new challenges for leaders and requires a more refined skillset in order to effectively lead and adapt to those changes.
The first shift identified, societal values, originates in the changing work landscape that has led to elevated levels of employee awareness, demanding leaders to become more involved. This closer level of involvement requires leaders to operate with a bigger picture mentality with a level of openness to diverse environments while remaining focused on their core principles and values. With this level of involvement, for leaders to create a high-performing and engaged environment, leaders should develop an invigorating sense of purpose through connecting history and values, living a positive brand, clarity of impact, self-actualization, rewards and work-life balance, and belongingness.
In the second shift identified, investor focus, stakeholders are becoming more focused on the depth and quality of a leader, including reputation, ethical behaviors, integrity and consistency. One skill and behavior supportive of leadership depth and consistency in quality performance is courage. Leaders acting with courage demonstrate convictions and the ability to drive vision and strategy to lead to action. Courage further drives action through meaning, as well as resilience to stay positive in the most challenging times while not resorting to short-term options that are not in line with personal and organizational goals and values.
The third shift, the ability to lead organizational change, is based in the realization that many organizations are ineffective with adhering to, and adapting to, change. Consequently, as change is essentially constant, leaders have been faced with this consistent demand to thrive on change with stability, flexibility and the need to anticipate change. This evolving focus requires leaders to see change, value change, create strategies for implementing change, and successfully accomplishing goals through change initiatives. In terms of leadership skills, creativity is critically important when facing changes. From the leadership perspective, leaders should develop and instill purpose in followers, create meaning with goals, and align organizational goals to outcomes. Creativity can be further enhanced with engagement of followers with rewards and recognition when change is embraced and executed.
The fourth shift, the focus on employee stress, has brought the increased performance demand influence on employees further into focus. Employee commitment is greater when employees have stronger relationships and trust in their leaders; relationships with openness, support and compassion can mitigate stress in followers. As a skill, leaders can develop and exhibit compassion for followers through meaningfully connecting drives and needs. Through connecting people with drive and needs followers gain a sense of what makes actions meaningful, leading to positive movement in energizing performance.
Responding to Changes
In light of the shifts in focus presented above, as well as the supporting skills and behaviors, there are approaches to leadership style practices that can further enhance leader effectiveness. To support the foundational changes above, there are multiple modern leadership styles that support leader performance and team performance. Though each style presented, including transactional leadership, transformational leadership, team leadership, servant leadership, authentic leadership, empathetic leadership, awakened leadership and resonant leadership have value for the evolving leadership demands, awakened leadership is most notable, encompassing many of the characteristics and behaviors of other leadership styles. Through this overview of awakened leadership, modern leaders can orient behaviors accordingly to anticipate and develop towards the changing demands on leaders.
The mindset behind the awakened leadership style is based in the thought that no single leadership style is effective at all times in all situations. Authentic leaders practice a holistic and authentic approach that is relatively unchanged from the style perspective. This approach is highly valuable in modern leadership practice due to rapid change and evolving workplace dynamics as awakened leadership is based in flexibility and creativity. Because an awakened leader operates with behaviors applicable to most environments, the style encompasses the behaviors of other leadership styles, including servant, situational, laissez-faire, authentic, authoritative, and transformational leadership. This multi-style leadership approach emphasizes the reality that each leadership style has its own time and place in a given situation with the circumstances and characteristics relevant to the environment and followers.
Awakened leadership holds three critical characteristics, as it requires the conscious mentality of a leader being connected on a spiritual level with other living beings with a mindfulness of circumstances as they unfold. First, awakened leadership involves awareness to incorporate the appropriate response to the needs of the followers and demands of the situation. Second, in terms of development, the awakened leader has a desire to continue developing one to guide their own behaviors, followers and the advancement of the organization. Lastly, due to the mindfulness and attention to self, awakened leaders remain focused on stakeholders, the environment and followers, while remaining authentic.
Overall, the awakened leadership style holds significant value in modern leadership practice not only in the multi-style abilities of the leader, but also in the ability to remain flexible to the environment, change and demands. In the employee-oriented organizational landscape, the awakened leadership style is highly appealing to the educated workforce as the style supports mutual growth and openness. All of the factors and characteristics of awakened leadership align well with the four foundational areas of change above where predictability is low while sensitivity, connectivity and creativity are critical to leader success.
As outlined above, shifts in the business landscape and the organizational setting continue to push leaders to new and unfamiliar levels. If a leader is able to anticipate and understand the changes, a strategic approach to developing skills and talents to respond to those changing demands can enable a leader to navigate challenges more easily. Lastly, when considering leadership opportunities, leaders can develop and enhance their leadership styles to improve outcomes in leadership practice. Utilizing a foundational approach of awakened leadership can develop a leader into a direction that is prepared to tackle the new challenges the modern leader continues to face.