What is 21st Century Leadership?

"Leadership…is about transformation, all kinds of transformation..." (Joseph Rost)

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Broadly speaking, leadership can be viewed as our individual and collective response to change the world for the better. An understanding and practice of leadership responsive to this world is needed given today’s highly interdependent world, full of enormous complexity, accelerating change, and unforeseen and unprecedented events. 21st Century Leadership is a perspective of leadership intended to respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of today’s world. Reflective of an expanded paradigm of leadership, it draws upon and integrates theories and practices from a wide range of disciplines and traditions to foster practical knowledge and transformative change in service of the world.

More than the behaviors, traits, and styles of individuals, 21st Century Leadership views leadership as a property of any social network. Not solely the domain of those “in charge,” leadership is something in which everyone participates. While complementing management and administrative functions, leadership is a distinct dimension of organizational life, and its development requires its own focus of attention.

The expression of this contemporary perspective of leadership incorporates a full spectrum of values and fosters a wide range of capacities, competencies, and skills, which are enacted in the various spheres of life in context-specific ways. These include, but are not limited to: critical, creative and systems thinking, self-awareness, communication and dialogue, social and cultural intelligence, and facilitation of team and collaborative processes. To develop this perspective of leadership development, both an inward and outward orientation is required involving the whole person who is engaged with the whole system.

In summary, 21st Century Leadership is a multidimensional and integrative view of leadership that is based in relationships. Through shared purposes and aspirations, leadership brings forward new ways of being, knowing, and doing, while respecting the developmental nature of the human life. 21st Century Leadership is oriented toward being inclusive, collaborative, and of service, to individuals, the social good, and ecological sustainability.

Rost, J. (1991, p. 126). Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport Connecticut: Praeger.