A multi-level analysis of global trends in leadership challenges and practices Contributors: Craig Perrin Sharon Daniels Chris Blauth Mark Marone, Ph.D. East Apthorp Joyce Thompsen, Ph.D. Kathleen Clancy Jefferson, Ph.D. Colleen O’Sullivan Linda Moran, Ed.D.
To succeed in the shifting business landscape of the 21stcentury, leaders must rethink their historical views and cultivate a new configuration of attitudes and abilities. That is the crux of AchieveGlobal’s multi-phased, multi-level study of how leadership is changing to keep pace with today’s business challenges. The research began by identifying leadership trends documented in peer-reviewed academic and industry journals over a two-year period. Later focus-group sessions supported development of a survey completed by 971 business and government leaders and employees in Europe, Asia, and North America. Survey results in turn facilitated development of a comprehensive new model of leadership today and a related individual assessment instrument. The literature review, focus groups, and survey painted a detailed picture of the business challenges and required practices for leaders at multiple levels in organizations worldwide. Among the key research findings and conclusions: • Leadership in the 21st-century is more than ever a complex matrix of practices, which vary by geography, organizational level, and individual circumstances. • In all global regions, modern leadership may be distilled into six “zones,” or categories of best practices, which the study identified as Reflection, Society, Diversity, Ingenuity, People, and Business. • Effective leaders recognize their own leadership strengths and liabilities, adjust current strategies, adopt new strategies, and recognize strengths and liabilities in other people. • Leaders strong in the Reflection zone are better equipped to leverage their strengths and reduce their liabilities in other zones. • Leaders from organizations with greater geographic scope, numbers of employees, and worldwide revenues tend to value the Diversity zone more highly than leaders do in smaller organizations. • Organizations with wider global operations identify their most pressing challenges in the Diversity zone, notably in “creating virtual workplace structures” and “succeeding with mergers and acquisitions.” • At the same time, leaders worldwide rank Diversity of lowest importance among all leadership zones. • In alignment with the overall top business challenge, “cost pressures,” survey respondents ranked Business as the most important leadership zone. • Leaders who adapt their zone strengths to their geographic location, scope of operations, and organizational level are better able to meet their specific combination of challenges. • Leaders who maintain active awareness of their environment and apply the practices demanded by that environment are more likely to achieve individual and organizational success.
1 | DEVELOPING THE 21ST CENTURY LEADER
The world has experienced profound changes in the early years of the 21st-century. Countless challenges— notably the rise of the global economy and its impact on countries everywhere—have forced leaders worldwide into uncharted territory and literally redefined what it takes to succeed. In the context of AchieveGlobal’s earlier research on leadership principles1, these challenges raised key questions to be addressed by comprehensive new research on leadership today: • What challenges confront leaders in the 21st-century? • How has leadership changed to keep pace? • What key practices are still important for leaders? • What new practices have emerged in response to the shifting business landscape? To answer these and other questions, a new worldwide study sought to uncover what makes leaders successful by examining their main challenges and daily practices against the backdrop of a dynamic business climate.