The 6 essential qualities for leadership in the 21st century

July 25, 2017

In times of constant changes leaders have to keep up with the pace!

Today, many managers must feel as if they were exploring the unknown in old shoes and with a backpack full of obstacles. As markets are disrupting at breakneck speed, simply reacting to changing realities is not enough in order for businesses to survive. What is needed in today's business environment is real leaders: They have the courage to break new ground, reinventing not only themselves but also their teams and their organizations as a whole. They question established strategies and traditions, think out of the box and unlock the full potential of their employees.

“In the 21st century, we have to deal with rapid change in business and society,” says Prof. Kathrin Köster, a long-standing faculty member of the WU Executive Academy. “We need innovative responses and fresh approaches when it comes to leadership, taking into account the needs and requirements of employees.” After all, human capital is at the heart of the new world of work.

Kathrin Köster has co-developed the short program “Pioneers of the 21st Century” at the WU Executive Academy, WU Vienna's business school. In the course of only five part-time modules, the leadership program helps executives transform into real leaders who not just instruct people and delegate tasks but lead themselves and others with confidence and courage. Along the way, participants develop into personalities who inspire. Who bring self-responsibility to life and, in doing so, set an example for others to follow. Who take their organizations forward into hitherto unknown worlds. Who think big and make their visions come true in creative ways, while always paying attention not only to efficiency but also to the needs of their employees and the environment.

Woman works with a laptop and a mobile phone
Real leaders have to keep up with new developments - like digitalization. Photo © CC0 Licence

There are 6 things executives need to be in order to become real leadership pioneers:

  1. Be courageous: New leaders are spearheads, make clear decisions and accept responsibility for their actions. But that is not all: They are flexible, learn from their mistakes and improvise if necessary.

    Why is this important? Only when leaders are courageous trailblazers will their employees dare to venture into something new and make mistakes. Leaders have to try new things and deal with their mistakes in a constructive manner. This kind of behavior forms the basis for new ideas and innovation.

  2. Be open-minded: They embrace change and are receptive to other people's opinions and ideas. They demonstrate great empathy and have the ability to view things from different perspectives. They are reflective and willing to constantly keep developing.

    Why is this important? Executives can no longer afford to insist on pushing their opinions. Complex decisions cannot make sense unless different perspectives and experiences are taken into account. Involving employees in the decision-making process not only makes for greater inspiration and better cooperation but also fosters a corporate culture characterized by openness.

  3. Be self-anchored: They believe in their skills, never lose touch with reality and carefully husband their resources and those of their employees. They come across as authentic and have the courage to question and change existing and time-tested strategies.

    Why is this important? You cannot fill others with enthusiasm unless you are self-anchored.

  4. Be appreciative: Pioneers appreciate others as much as they appreciate themselves. They learn from interactions with people and treat those around them with compassion. They see mistakes as opportunities to learn.

    Why is this important? People work with motivation when they feel they are being taken seriously and when they see their supervisors as role models.

  5. Be action-oriented: They translate ideas into actions, are creative and roll up their sleeves. They help people build networks and fill them with enthusiasm for their ideas and visions.

    Why is this important? Complex times call for swift, flexible and foresighted decision-making: agility is crucially important in this context. Mulling over ideas or putting off decisions for too long harms organizations.

  6. Be focused: They are self-disciplined, focus on what really matters and make decisions based on the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of our success will come from 20% of our effort.

    Why is this important? Executives have to think big and need to keep the big picture in mind at all times so as not to lose sight of their goals in the jungle of ideas encountered in the new world of work.

Are you interested in learning more about leadership in the 21st century? Join our short program "Pioneers of the 21st century" starting on October 23.

For more information, please visit the program site.

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