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The New Demands of 21st Century Leadership

Perhaps the most frequently asked questions these days in boardrooms, corner offices, and business school classes is: What is leadership and how has it changed in the 21st century? There is little doubt that the business landscape has changed in the last two decades driven primarily by two forces: globalization and technology. Not surprisingly, these two market influences have directly impacted how heads of companies lead.

The most notable change has been in what skills are believed to be necessary to lead a company. In previous generations, business leaders were chosen for their specific business acumen including their business-related knowledge and skill sets such as finance, marketing, or strategy. Pedigree and education also played a role in who was placed on the top floor of a company.

In recent years though, there has been a shift toward less-tangible psychological, emotional, and people skills as prerequisites for leaders. Of course, the hard skills are still important—leaders still need to know the nuts and bolts of their business—but these knowledge sets have become, in my experience, necessary but not sufficient, for getting the key to the executive washroom.

I have identified four such areas that have gained prominence in my work with senior management of companies around the world during the last decade.

Dr. Jim Taylor