Equipping leaders for the 21st century

Publication Date08 Aug 2008
AuthorJock Encombe
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour
Equipping leaders for the 21st century
Jock Encombe
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to show that leaders who want to succeed in the 21st century
need to develop a unique portfolio of attitudes, behaviors and skills to enable them to work at the highest
level and drive performance and profitability within their people and their organization, ultimately
contributing to the sustainability of their operating environment.Leaders of the future will need to make a
positive impact on their organizations and the wider world.
Design/methodology/approach – This article aims to investigate the nature of this contribution and to
stimulate discussion on how to build leadership capability for success in the 21st century.
Findings – Meaning is the central component of creating the leadership mindset and skillset required
for success in the 21st century and is the key factor that leaders need to address to engage their people
and stakeholders. This article draws on the experiences of Costa Coffee, which has already begun to
develop a 21st century outlook and is beginning to reap the rewards of creating meaning and
engagement throughout the organization.
Originality/value – The paper presents a series of issues and questions for leaders with 21st century
ambition to consider and discusses how they can benchmark their current 21st century leadership
Keywords Leadership, Self development, Twentyfirst century, Behaviour
Paper type Research paper
Predictions that the future focus of leadership will demand leaders who possess a
unique outlook, attitude and skillset to enable them to make a positive impact on both
their organizations and the wider world are, it seems, coming true. As business
decisions become increasingly affected by demographic, technological, environmental and
socio-economic issues, the leaders of today’s and tomorrow’s organizations need to
successfully balance the magnitude of these dynamic global factors with the day-to-day
requirements of their company, their people and their local operating environment.
Examples of the emerging pressure on 21st century leaders can be seen in a number of
industry sectors. Fast food giants are under pressure to reinvent themselves to address
sustainability and packaging issues, as well as to meet demands from consumers for
‘‘healthier’’ products and to seek new markets. Leading sportswear manufacturers are
facing calls to make changes to their production and supply chains in light of criticisms of
their current practices. As a result of these new and demanding issues, how to equip leaders
of the 21st century with the skillset and mindset to meet these challenges is an issue being
considered by many organizations today.
There have been seismic shifts in what employees, customers and wider stakeholders want
from businesses and government in recent years. The companies and leaders that have
recognized these shifts and responded to them are already reaping the benefits of being in
touch with these changing trends and global issues. The organizations that have adapted to
the new complexities of the 21st century are best positioned to create invigorating cultures
DOI 10.1108/14754390810893062 VOL. 7 NO. 5 2008, pp. 23-27, QEmerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1475-4398
Jock Encombe is based at
YSC Scotland, Edinburgh,

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