Leadership in the 21st century

I was taught about leadership in the 1900s. I was not a leader in the last century, but I certainly had leaders during that time. And most of them were what we would now call old school.  

They saw hoomanz as resources, they thought bullying, and the three As, were ok (aggression, abuse, abrupt), and they took a ‘knowledge is power’ approach to leadership.  

21st century leadership is vastly different to the old school style. In so many ways. Which I will detail below. Suffice it to say that in the 2000s, there really has been a push to upgrade, upskill and uplift leaders. And rightly so. And it probably hasn’t even been in the 2000s, I’m going to say that it has been in the last 5 to 10 years. 

In saying that though, there are still plenty of old school leaders out there on planet earth, who are not buying into all this mumbo jumbo about caring for humans. “I tell them what to do, and they do it, it’s not that hard,” you might hear them say. Or about 100 other tell-tale comments, which serve no one other than themselves and their egos. 

You might have worked out if you have followed me for any length of time that I am on a mission to create new age leaders, and to help old school leaders see that there is a better way to lead humans. 

1. New age leadership can be explained by the light triad 

Words like narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellian have become somewhat synonymous in the 2020s with old school leaders. These words are used to describe those leaders who are either a remnant of the past, or who choose at times to act like they are. See some of my previous articles for information around the dark triad and those leadership styles. 

What is more important though, is the light triad. Scientificamerican.com described the three elements of the light triad as Kantianism (treating people as ends unto themselves, not mere means), Humanism (valuing the dignity and worth of each individual) and Faith in Humanity (believing in the fundamental goodness of humans).  

In other words, treating hoomanz as hoomanz, not as resources. Some people say that HR should be called human relationships, not human resources, for that very reason.  

In short, the 21st century leader values, cares for, and believes in the good of the people in their teams.  

2. The 3 As are not ok 

I am still told (somewhat often) that if you need to get something done, and it is urgent, you need to raise your voice, and be demanding. I’m going to say, that is an old school leadership trait. Because, what also sits beside being aggressive, is being abusive or being abrupt.  

These three types of leadership behaviour are sure fire ways to trigger your team members, to get them off site, and to see them either quietly quitting or simply resigning and leaving.  

The 21st century leader knows that they don’t need to raise their voice, they don’t need to make it personal, and they don’t need to be obnoxious to engage their team members. That is not to say that direct communication can’t take place, as it can and should.  

There are just better ways to communicate in 2023. And it is through the lens of languaging for connection, not direction. It is about communicating to care and connect. Not to upset. It is about using languaging that doesn’t offend… and before you say everyone is too easily offended in 2023… I agree. Though I also agree that leaders shouldn’t deliberately offend, just because they are lazy with their languaging.  

Use inclusive language, like we or us, don’t use trigger words like I disagree, you are wrong, or no.  

In short, the 21st century leader is aware of what they say, and how they say it. And the impact that their communicate has on others. 

3. Treat your out group like you do your in group 

Every leader has an in group, and an out group. AKA the two distinct groups of team members who are either in or out. They either get the good treatment, and the good jobs. Or they don’t. Some businesses call the concept of an in group, the ‘purple circle’. 

Some leaders will even admit that they have an in group and an out group. I have even heard leaders explain the different treatment styles for both groups of team members.  

The thing to remember about in and out groups is that as much as some leaders think they can hide it… they can’t… It is obvious not only to their own team, is it obvious to the whole business. So, what is the solution. 

Be aware of how you are interacting with all your team members (otherwise known as LMX – leader to member exchange) and make it a goal to treat your out group the same as you would, your in group. Make the effort. Work on your leadership style. Create more fairness across your team. 

In short, be uber aware of how you are treating different team members, and work on balancing the bar and creating fairness and equity in your leadership style. 

Reach out if you would like to know more about how to be a 21st century leader. 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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