21st century leadership – are you ready to tackle it head on? Ways to fill your knowledge tank

MJ Flanagan discusses leadership in the 21st century.

I recently spoke at a leadership conference about the issues leaders face as we move into the second decade of 21st century. They need to become ‘global citizens’ who embrace diversity and straddle continents, penetrating complexity to understand how to make the most of every opportunity.

According to Sally Helgesen, author of ‘Challenges for Leaders in the Years Ahead’, business and the workforce will continue to become increasingly more diverse and fast moving. This is echoed by Marshall Goldsmith in his book 'Leading New age Professionals' who attests that business needs to be even more “technology and media savvy, globally strategic and aware [with] the emotional intelligence to deal with more diverse and knowledgeable teams”. Stephen R Covey adds that “they need to be straight talking, creative and ever more able to deal with the multi focused igeneration that will decide how much they want to contribute to the workplace based on how much they get from it”.

This may not be new, though how many business leaders have really thought through how this will affect learning and development in the coming years? We know that although classroom learning has a very valuable place, often today’s leaders have not got the time or sometimes inclination to take advantage of formal learning. At my recent leaders’ conference, when I asked delegates whether they had had undertaken any form continual professional development over the last year, less than a third of the room had. Also despite leaders telling me of the importance of having development plans for their teams, only three delegates, just 7% had a plan in place for the coming year for their own development.

There are a number of ways in which you can develop your skills without having to attend a yearly course at Cranfield or doing a PHD. Here are some of the practical ideas I presented at the conference:

1. Google alerts: Register and ask for all material published on the web about the subject you wish to know more about in. Be careful not to make it too general or you would get a very long list of links.

2. Reading: With books now available as e-books and the rise of the ipad and Kindle there is no excuse not to use your travelling time productively by dipping into a book. Why not look at the list of business book reviews at www.learnpurple.com/news/book-reviews.

3. Subscribe to magazines and websites: Harvard Business Review gives the latest thinking for leaders and certainly meets the globally savvy requirement.

4. Subscribe to blogs and link via Twitter from the greatest thinkers. Our favourites include:

  • Seth Godin (Author of Purple Cow and Small is the New Big. Seth has also produced a website called www.squidwho.com which is a who’s who of famous and inspiring people. You can type in the name and watch videos, see speeches and be enthused by their latest adventures.
  • Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point and Blink)
  • Websites of forward thinking companies such as ours http://www.learnpurple.com/blog.

5. Learning on the move is a highly effective use of your time. One of the best resources I have seen is www.ted.com. Ted bring together the best speakers from around the globe for conferences, films them and invites anyone to download their speeches and presentations. Some are as short as three minutes.

6. Learn best practice from ‘the big boys’ either by regularly looking at their websites e.g. www.pwc.com or through attending cross industry conferences. The Sunday Times are particularly active when it comes to assembling a range of experts at conferences. We often attend these to summarise the learning and add them to our blogs or send information out to our purple revolutionaries. Click here to join the purple revolution.

7. Develop and monitor your people. Use talent intelligence to pin point development requirements and required skills and then offer them access to either internal or external L&D. Mentoring and coaching are also great ways to learn either through mentoring someone or being mentored. Once programmes are in place make sure regular performance appraisals (such as Talent Toolbox) are carried out as this will not only ensure the manager is on track, but also help you with succession planning.

8. Short, sharp, relevant training sessions such as our 90 minute learning bites can give three or four practical tools and you can still be in the workplace by 10.30am.

9. Often we find that leaders become ‘protected’ from the ‘day to day’ by heads of department and can therefore lose touch with the people or the business. Back to the floor days are a great way to refocus your energies on the core of the business. Why not sit in on some of your teams’ meetings or development sessions and learn about their mindset from the discussions during the session.

10. Finally, networking within and outside of your industry can put you in touch with others that you can share best practice with. The web enables us to network more effectively and efficiently through sites such as Linked in. Register, build your profile and make connections. Remember it is about quality as well as quantity. Following the theory of six degrees of separation why not ask your immediate connections to introduce you to people that could help you or your business.

Why not take a look at your own strengths and development needs and put together a development plan for yourself and your people. Use some of the resources above to fill their knowledge tanks and be prepared as a future inspiring leader fit for purpose when it comes to the next decade and beyond.

2010-12-13T00:00:00+00:00 December 13th, 2010|