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Provide A Thorough Critical Review Of 21st Century Leadership (Term Paper Sample)


To provide a thorough critical review of 21st Century leadership


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A critical Literature Review on Leadership
Executive summary
Leaders in the 21st century operate in an entirely different environment from their predecessors of the previous century. Globalization and the continuing evolution of technology have made the environment uncertain and transformed organizations into knowledge centers. As a result, this report emphasizes that the traditional approaches of leadership such as bureaucracy are no longer relevant. New leadership models which emphasize that the leader needs to develop a compelling vision and engage the employees in building a shared purpose are better suited to the dynamics of the current world.
Change is a word that describes the 21st century and leaders have to deal with its different sources which are global, organizational, and follower. A critique of the hierarchical leadership models of the past century which are appropriate for predictable situations reveals that they are no longer relevant in dynamic environments. In response, organizations are doing away with the hierarchies and command lines to develop flexible structures that can quickly adapt. Therefore, leadership has shifted from the traits schools to focus on the response of the followers, and now the interaction between the leader and follower in building engagement towards attaining the vision.
The 21st century has brought significant changes brought about by the rapid development of new technology, the widespread use of the internet, and ever increasing competition. The impact is a lot of turbulence and uncertainty in the environment in which contemporary organizations operate. Hitt, Haynes, & Serpa (2010, p. 437) point out that in this context, a particular style of leadership is needed at the top of the organization to implement new strategies to deal with the rapid changes and uncertainty.
The 21st-century competitive landscape includes the elimination of the traditional industry boundaries, extremely competitive markets, “increased emphasis on price, quality, and customer satisfaction, global focus on innovation and continuous learning, and changes in employee expectations and careers” (Hitts et al. 2010, p.438). Vries and Korotov (2010, p.4) points out that the traditional leadership model of command-and-control hierarchical structures is no longer appropriate. Therefore, the leaders of today must possess a wide range of competencies and approaches to perform their roles successfully as well as being flexible and adaptable to the environment.
The literature on leadership is extensive, and over the years, there has been the development of many schools of leadership such as the trait, behavioral, contingency, rational, and charismatic. However, today’s organizations operate in completely different landscapes, and some of these theories are limited in application to the 21st-century leader. This paper undertakes a critical literature review of 21st-century leadership by analyzing the key issues which are the core competencies for leadership, the factors of change, the challenges, and issues that relate to gender and diversity.
Core leadership competencies
The contemporary leaders need competencies to enable them to guide their organizations to compete successfully in the global environment. The OECD (2005, p.4) defines a competency as “…more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilizing psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context.” Higgs (2003, p. 278) developed a potential model that demystifies 21st century leadership. In the model, the predicted competencies for the 21st-century leader are: envision, engage, enable, inquire, and develop.
Envision refers to the “ability to identify a future picture, which informs the way in which people direct their efforts and utilize their skills” (Higgs 2003, p.278). Ratcliffe and Ratcliffe (2015, p.3) assert that organizations must shift from their dead-end “business-as-usual” tactics to transformative strategies to navigate turbulence, dilemma, and confusion in the environment. The leader has the task of visioning by creating a bold, unique, and ambitious image of the preferred future. It entails taking a long-view backward as well as into the future, delving deeply into the broader understanding of concepts, strategies, and realities, and evaluate risk and uncertainty.
Engage means that the 21st-century leader has to find the appropriate way of communicating the vision and ensure it is understood. It involves effective communication where the leader clarifies the direction, expectations, and the vision of the organization. The 21st-century employees want to be part of an organization with a compelling vision, and the leader must provide a sense of mission and inspire its acceptance.
Enabling means that the leader trusts the talent and potential of the employees and creates an environment to release their potential. Such an environment will appreciate that the traditional leadership of seeking to enforce written rules and strict procedures is no longer relevant. Raqvi et al. (2013, p.93) point out that workers value autonomy where they can make choices in scheduling and achieving their tasks. As a result, the 21st-century leader needs to create an environment of trust and open communication where workers exercise their autonomy, receive direct and honest feedback, and get recognized for their performance.
Inquire means that the leader is open to real dialogue with the organizational members. The hierarchical structure where decision making is at the top is no longer relevant, and leaders have to appreciate they must use a “bottom-up” approach to drive change. In this case, they must seek the feedback of the lower level employees. According to Kim and Sting (2014, p.38) in a study that compared top down and bottom-up approach, the "bottom-up" approach embodies opportunities for improvement as well as refining the organization’s priorities.
Develop is the last element of Higgs 21st century leadership model. It means that the leader works with the people within the organization to help them in making the envisioned contribution. The workforce of today places importance on personal development, work that fulfills their skills and experience, and making a positive impact in the world. Today’s leaders must provide opportunities for people to improve their skills through training and development programs and crucially, clarifying how the employee contributes to the achievement of the organization’s vision.
Factors of change in 21st leadership
The 21st century was expected to bring about significant changes that would increase the turbulence in the environmental organizations operate. Bligh, Kohles, and Pillai (2011, p. 1058) in their study that sought to establish the history and way forward for leadership observe that the approaches have progressed from biased, follower centered, the social constructionist view, and finally understanding the role of crisis and uncertainty. Lorz (2005, p. 2) identifies global, organizational, and follower trends are the main factors of change in the 21st-century leadership.
Global trends
These refer to the changes that emerge externally from the organization but have an influence on the leadership approach, and they include globalization and technological revolution. Hitt et al. (2010, p.438) suggest that globalization enhances the development of cross-border relations not only in the markets for goods but also in their supply chain. Previous researches show that organization deal with complex networks of relationships across countries and their economies. Jokinen (2005, p. 200) in her study that reviewed global leadership competencies argues that the 21st-century leaders must develop a global mindset, work equally with persons with diverse backgrounds, participate effectively in multicultural teams, facilitate organizational change, and seek ways to motivate the employees in an uncertain world to excellence.
Organizational trends
These affect the way the design of organizations as well as their reaction to the environment. In response to the global trends, organizations are forced to become flexible and more adaptable. Ouye (2011, p. 2) point out that organizations structures are now spatially and distributed with the traditional hierarchies of authority are becoming flat. The effect is that responsibilities are pushed to the lower organizational levels, and decision making is increasingly pushed wider and lower. Also, organizations have adopted enabling technologies and social collaboration tools making the sharing of data easier, and workers can now collaborate asynchronously. The 21st-century leader, therefore, must develop an organizational culture that enhances the chances of driving change, drive innovation and creativity, increase the response to changes in the environment, and builds a single-minded commitment to the mission and goals (Mbeba 2014, p.666).
Follower trends
A trend that is attracting a lot of interest in organizations, as well as that of researchers, is diversity, not only cultural but also regarding gender. Calls for greater gender inclusivity in organizations where particularly women and minority groups demand greater recognition and equal opportunities. Leaders in the 20th century did not have to address such an issue, but as a result of the changing gender roles, contemporary leaders are being forced to take it seriously. Another key follower trend is identified by Ouye (2011, p. 6) where workers now want more autonomy, flexibility, and say in how organizations run t...
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