21st Century Skills and Competencies Essay

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21st Century Leadership

What does leadership mean today? The 21st Century environment presents totally different challenges and needs from the previous centuries with regards to leadership. Studies have shown that emotional and social intelligence are two big areas that pertain to 21st century leadership, as they relate to how well leaders can effectively establish positive relationships with followers (Boyatzis, 2008; Den, Deanne, Belschak, 2012; Higgs, 2013; Schyns, Schilling, 2013). There are, nonetheless, many styles and theories of leadership that are discussed by both professionals and researchers today. These styles and theories range from servant leadership to authoritarian leadership. Yet as Higgs (2013) shows, in the 21st century, a "sense making" paradigm is needed in order for an appropriate model of leadership to be implemented that "is relevant to the context of complexity and change facing organizations in the early twenty-first century" (p.273). This sense making paradigm is actually a throw-back to what Luthans (1988) identified nearly 3 decades ago -- namely the need for management to be mentally and emotionally supportive of and available to subordinates: "successful managers . . . are not engaged in the same day-to-day activities as effective managers" but are leaders who "find that the way to get ahead . . . is to be friendly . . . both inside and outside the firm . . . find a common interest . . . and interact with [workers] on that level" (p.130). The key to successful leadership in the 21st century is to identify the needs of a complex and diverse workforce population, wherein generational gaps can cause misunderstandings and cultural differences can lead to resentment.

The proponents of behavioral theories of leadership maintain a popular belief that great leaders are made and not born. This leadership theory illuminates actions of leaders and not their mental qualities or internal states. The theory postulates that people can learn to be leaders through teaching and observation. According to Bass (1990), this is simply done by teaching an individual the most appropriate behavioral response to any given situation. This means that the contemporary leaders, will learn good quality leadership from the current professionals some of which were not in the previous century, and from interacting with the current systems like the email system, the social media and other IT related interactive platforms. The 21st Century in this aspect has been seen to totally reshape the conception of leadership.

Another concept of leadership is related to the transformational theory -- which is shown by Cavazotte, Moreno and Hickmann (2012) to utilize EI to a significant extent in order to transform workers into their optimal selves. Then there is the transactional style of leadership, which focuses on more routine tasks, where a rewards/punishment system is in place to motivate workers. For more long-term projects, however, the transformational style speaks more to the needs of organizations looking to tap the potential of their workers for the long haul (Harms, Crede, 2010).

History of Leadership and Modern Trends

The history of leadership can be viewed most readily in the societal shifts that have taken place over time across continents, as social structures are ultimately most reflective of leadership concepts (King, Johnson, Van Vugt, 2009). A large commonality among the various threads that are interwoven in the history of leadership is the idea that strong leadership is an outcome of experience -- a quality that is honed and refined over time and demonstrated by those who have been tested by the fire: "age correlates with leadership . . . [where] knowledge and training" are requisite "but not in domains that require risk-taking and physical bravery" (King, Johnson, Van Vugt, 2009, p.912).

Leadership styles and theories have also developed over time in ways that reflect social norms. In the modern era, the idea of the "Great Man," which held that leaders were born rather than made, has been replaced over time by theories grounded in the psychological concepts devised throughout the 20th century: Trait Theory, Behavioral Theory, the University Theories, Contingency Theories, Organizational Culture Theory, Motivational Theory, Needs Theory -- these are just a few examples of the types of ideas about leadership that have grown out of the 20th century's focus on psychology as a means of understanding human behavior. These theories and concepts have moreover built on one another over the years so that each is a reaction to that which came before. Of course, in some cases a new idea has come along that is completely radical and different from the others and is based on a new approach to human understanding (Maslanka, 2004).
Nonetheless, even before the 20th century, leadership was a concept that philosophers, statesmen and religious thinkers all propounded upon. From Machiavelli to the modern political and organizational princes of today, leadership has been a topic that everyone has an opinion on.

The main styles of leadership that have taken center stage in the modern era have all come from the University Theories models. The role of EI and transformational leadership within today's discussions of 21st century leadership are now predominant because they reflect the trend in modern culture that seeks to maximize potential and use every last drop of one's resources towards achieving the overall organizational aim in the manner that is most effective for the long-term. The role of ethics has also become important in leadership, as the fall of corporations like Enron have shown a need for transparency, trust, authenticity and virtue among leaders to ensure success.

Today's trends in leadership include ideas about how leaders should assist others to grow. Thus, many assumptions are still made in any leadership discussion -- the main one being that leaders always attempt to "empower others" (Conger, 1989, p.17). Leadership is also defined as the art of "instilling a sense of power" within follower and most leaders in the modern era tend to embody this idea. Another assumption that is made about leadership is that its leaders should possess a number of qualities and characteristics that older societies identified as virtues -- or good habits: characteristics such as truthfulness, honesty, openness, communicative, empathetic (Avolio, Walumbwa, Weber, 2009). There are a number of styles of leadership approaches that can be utilized in order to facilitate leaders who operate according to this assumption: transformational leadership, confrontational leadership, the application of emotional intelligence, etc.

Another trend in leadership today is the concept of self-management. This is a type of leadership that puts the onus of development on the individual (Yukl, 2010). This style is also one that underscores essentially all styles of leadership because if the individual self is not oriented towards betterment, empowerment, and achievement of goals through the overcoming of obstacles, then the individual will never be useful for an organization. At some point, self-management has to kick in regardless of the method of leadership style adopted by leaders.

The current trends associated with describing leadership is that leaders' behavior can fit into four major categories -- namely 1) task-oriented behaviors, 2) relational oriented behaviors, 3) change oriented behaviors, and 4) passive leadership. Leaders with task oriented behaviors exhibit transactional-leader behaviors. They offer contingent reward and manage by MBEA-Management by exception-active (Management by Exception Active). These tasks are often defined by time and space. The 21st Century has brought with it a shift in the tasks that are carried out in organizations on a daily basis, things like attending to social media and responding to comments from followers was not a priority in the previous century, but now is a requisite for most organizations. This means the task-oriented leaders will still have to be shaped by the contemporary tasks. These Task oriented leaders are capable of defining task roles and role relationships among group members (Bass, 1990). They can coordinate group members' actions and determine standards of task performance. Task oriented leaders are capable of ensuring that group members perform up to the determined standards of task performance. A transactional leader will always make clear what is expected in terms of task performance and rewards for meeting those expectations. He can anticipate task oriented problems and take corrective action. Leaders should be clear about their expectations and standards for performance. These standards can be used to shape follower commitment, motivation, and behavior.

Understanding Leadership in the 21st Century

A leader's action in the 21st Century should attract follower's respect and encourage them to focus on the welfare of the group in a society that is increasingly preoccupied with the social media and global events rather than local events as it was in the previous century. Some aspects of transformational leadership like individualized consideration have relational orientation. A transformational leader must create and facilitate change in an organisation. A change oriented leader must develop and communicate a vision for change. Burns (1978) states these changes are important in the fast changing work environment, otherwise the efforts of the team….....

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