The Must-Have Habitudes of Effective 21st Century Leaders
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” – General Douglas MacArthur
The conversation around must-have, 21st century leadership skills has been in full swing for years. From business to education; classroom to community, the debate on what is a “new skill” or an “always skill” can be both controversial and confusing.
Although it’s almost certain we will never all agree to a singular list of skills, strategies, and competencies leaders must embody for success now and in the future, we do know what effectively operating and leading in a fluid, dynamic and every changing 21st Century world requires:
- The ability to see the challenge and the solution, from every angle
- The ability know what questions to ask and when to ask them
- The ability to communicate one’s vision passionately and persuasively
- The ability to connect with others and create an enduring relationship
- The ability to understand your strengths and the discipline to improve your weaknesses
- The ability to dream, set audacious goals, and believe they can be accomplished
- The ability to stand out, stand up, and stand beside and knowing when each is required
- The ability to lead, serve and honor others.
Be it liberating the innate genius of teachers and students in the classroom or leading tens of thousands of people to achieve astounding positive effect on the battlefield and boardroom, history and experience confirm that individuals and organizations with these particular attributes are much better equipped to solve any problem, capitalize on every opportunity and create a cycle of positive change that renders no challenge insurmountable.
These abilities, however, are not developed to their full potential naturally. They reflect a willful combination of habits, daily disciplined decisions that successful individuals choose to make, but they also demand a particular attitude, mindset, and way of thinking about the world and one’s place in it. Together, these disciplined habits and critical mindsets, or Habitudes, provide a comprehensive model for excellence.
These particular attributes are much better equipped to solve any problem, capitalize on every opportunity and create a cycle of positive change that renders no challenge insurmountable.
The ability to create unique images or ideas. Imagination enables you to leverage your creativity to unlock new, vast and fascinating opportunities.
Possessing a clear understanding of your strengths, shortcomings, motivations and emotions. Self awareness allows you to better understand other people and positions you to transform informed insight into intentional action.
The willingness and ability to face danger, fear, ridicule or rejection in order to stand up for your values and beliefs. Courage reflects a commitment to lean in when it would be easier, safer or more comfortable to shrink or fall back.
Courage reflects a commitment to lean in when it would be easier, safer or more comfortable to shrink or fall back.
The ability to change (or be changed) to fit new circumstances. Adaptability infuses you with required tolerance to accept different circumstances and unexpected conditions without losing momentum.
The commitment to persist or remain constant in pursuing an idea, purpose or task despite facing obstacles or objectives. Perseverance enables us to finish what we’ve started, no matter how daunting or discouraging the circumstances.
Powerful emotions that propel us beyond our current comfort zone in the direction of our potential. Passion is the fuel that transforms bold ideas into tangible realities. It is channeled enthusiasm and excitement in pursuit of bold goals, big dreams, and ambitious agendas.
Passion is the fuel that transforms bold ideas into tangible realities.
A desire to inquire and experience something new, novel or unfamiliar. Curiosity stimulates the mind and frees your creative emotions, opening the door to the most exciting acts of living.
The ability to selflessly tune in to another person’s circumstances, point of view, thoughts and feelings. Empathy reflects our internal capacity to suspend judgment so we connect to others in a way that makes them feel acknowledged and valued.
The capacity to effectively deal with stress, adversity and hardship. Resilience reveals our ability to bend and not break when life throws us unexpected curve balls or thrusts us into unpleasant circumstances.
The ability to identify with and respond to another person in their moment of distress, heartbreak and hurt. Compassion is an altruistic form of selflessness that motivates us to move from passive bystander to active participant in the process of helping relieve suffering in our surroundings.
Compassion is an altruistic form of selflessness that motivates us to move from passive bystander to active participant
The willingness to actively extend unmerited favor, kindness or forgiveness to those around us. Grace is a soul-thrilling concept which equips us to do unto others as we desire others do unto us.
The willful application of willpower to accomplishing a given task or effort. The cornerstone of success of every great leader and organization boils down to applying disciplined thought to intentional, well-coordinated disciplined action.
Routinely putting into practice the immensely powerful combination of these refined habits and focused attitudes establishes conditions for everyone, both leader and lead, to elevate performance, enhance buy-in, and maximize satisfaction. In turn, it fuels the creation of a virtuous cycle of positive change that transforms routine moments into opportunities to achieve results previously thought unimaginable.
Said another way, these 21st Century Habits and Attitudes are much more than a nice list of things TO DO. Rather, they reveal the explicit profile of the learner, worker, and citizen leader the world is expecting each of us TO BE. So whether you are leading soldiers in building an Air Force in a war zone, helping students pass algebra in a classroom or seeking to create a renewed spirit of innovation and excellence within your organization, these Habitudes will dramatically improve the chances of your leadership success in both big and small ventures.
The cornerstone of success of every great leader and organization boils down to applying disciplined thought to intentional, well-coordinated disciplined action.
In his brilliant book Five Minds for the Future, Howard Gardner offers a definition of leadership that validates the immense value of these invaluable, must-have 21st skills. He writes, “A leader is someone who is able, through persuasion and personal example, to change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of those whom he seeks to lead.” In other words, he highlights how successfully leading people in a dynamic, ever changing world requires you create the conditions for shared commitment, clear understanding and mutual trust.
Only then, when you succeed in making people feel as though they matter and their efforts are valued—and valuable—will they choose to show up in a way that makes excellence a possibility.
Only then will you demonstrate you are a leader worth following.
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