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21st century leadership

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Leading in the 21st Century calls for a very unique set of leadership skills and behaviours - not only is the environment we lead in a constant state of change, but the generations that we are leading are also changing, with a very different set of attributes than those of their parents and grandparents.

Gen Y, and Gen Z (who will shortly be joining them in the workforce) come with their own unique perspectives, values, motivations, and expectations of their lives, careers, and leaders.

These generations value a sense of self, truth, and authenticity above all else, they tend to be unencumbered by a strong sense of structure, hierarchy, and authority.

Accordingly, today’s leaders are increasingly turning away from the traditional, hierarchical management style and embracing leadership strategies that encourage strong emotional connections.

Recent research suggests that encouraging emotional connections between managers and employees is the key to long-term engagement and performance.

“People work at their very best and their highest levels when they’re committed to an organization, not when they have to comply,” Susan Steinbrecher, co-author of Heart-Centered Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well.

Creating such an environment requires leaders to display not just wisdom, but also courage and commitment to lead with authenticity, transparency, humility and service. In short, to lead using the power of the human element rather than the traditional authoritarian one.

Tapping into our own 'human element' and using it to lead in a way that inspires others to follow requires an ability to deeply connect with the self - both as an individual and as a leader.

This is all about getting to the core of the self; understanding your unique story, and how that has shaped and defined your personal truth.

Understanding and embracing our own truth enables us to view situations, and relationships more objectively - free of ego, and assumption - and therefore respond far more appropriately and effectively, creating an environment that is based on:

1. A deep understanding of the beliefs, motivations, and needs driving employee behaviour. Focusing on the underlying triggers, rather than the outcomes allows for a more human, and effective set of responses and solutions.

2. A mutually valued set of needs. “As human beings, we all have the need to be valued, cared for, listened to, empathized with, [and] empowered,” Steinbrecher says. Recognizing and valuing these basic needs immediately elevates employee engagement and commitment - employees now have an opportunity to commit, and engage based on who they are, and how they are treated, rather than simply because they are required to do so.

3. Empowerment. Empowering employees with your trust (rather than your direction) inspires them to engage more deeply, and commit more seriously in order to prove themselves worthy of the trust and opportunities entrusted to them.

4. Understanding your impact. Never forget that as a leader you are constantly under the spotlight. Your actions, and values as a leader are judged based on what you are seen to DO, rather than simply what you say.

5. The power of choice. Understanding the difference between followers who want to follow your lead, versus those that feel obligated to do so, is a crucial element of a more human focused leadership. The end result is a committed, highly engaged, and highly performing team willing to go above and beyond for their leader.

6. Care of the self and others. The mental, emotional and spiritual health of the leader is crucial to the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the entire team. Leaders who take good care of themselves and encourage their teams to do likewise not only have a more positive impact on their employees, but they also tend to have more positive, and stronger performing teams.

To learn more about the Deidre Dattoli corporate leadership programs please visit

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