Leadership challenges for the 21st century

leadership for 21st century

Global competition in politics, economics, culture, social and other fields today require every organization to carry out various adaptive and proactive reform strategies in an effort to maintain its existence. The strategic environment of the organization, both profit-oriented and non-profit-oriented, is constantly undergoing dynamic changes and continues to grow. Opportunities and threats that come from the external environment, will have a direct or indirect impact on the internal environment. These changes require organizations to be responsive so that they are not crushed by the demands of change itself. Thus, organizations should consider leadership challenges for the 21st century to anticipate unpredictable changes.

With the perspective of change theory, change is an inevitability. Everything in this world is certain and always changing. Change for better conditions or change to be bad. What has not changed is of course the change itself. Organizational change always occurs, realized or not.  In line with the dynamic nature of the organization due to internal and external environmental pressures.  Organizations can only survive if they can make changes. Any environmental changes that occur must be observed because the effectiveness of an organization depends on the extent to which the organization can adapt to the changes.

The global change that is an issue in the conversation of the public and the academic community is disruption in various aspects of life impact of the industrial revolution 4.0. The industrial revolution 4.0 brought about a major change in people’s lives. The industrial revolution 4.0 is a new technological advance that integrates the physical, digital, and biological worlds, where there is a fundamental change in the way of human life works. Advances in computing power, artificial intelligence, robotics, and materials science could accelerate the shift toward more environmentally friendly products of all kinds. Digital fabrication techniques, including 3D printing, can bring manufacturing closer to customers and make parts maintenance easier and cheaper.

Advances in digital technology have changed business procedures both on the demand and supply side. From the consumer side, the advancement of digital technology offers convenience to the public in conducting several daily activities such as communicating, buying goods, ordering tickets, to transacting only using gadgets. Due to changes in consumer behavior patterns, it encourages producers to transform production processes until distribution becomes more digital. This condition gave birth to new platforms in the business world, such as sharing economy, on demand economy, blockchain, digital marketplace and e-commerce.

The scale and breadth of technological innovation revolutionized the way we do business.  Business organizations today make data a new currency. Changes in business governance give birth to entrepreneurs, can also be called successful leaders based on digital technology in this era of disruption. Figures such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Ma are examples of entrepreneurs or successful leaders in their fields, who as young people have started to create Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Alibaba.  They have proven to be able to take advantage of changing environments, becoming the competitive advantage of business organizations that are run.

One of the determinants of organizational success in both the public and private sectors is leadership. Like a ship, where the ship will dock, the captain is the one who determines.  The use of diverse approaches or perspectives on leadership, in addition to giving birth to diverse definitions of leadership also gives birth to diverse leadership theories as well.  Leadership has been a topic of interest to historians and philosophers since ancient times. Even the history of leadership has existed since Adam – the first man on earth was created. Nevertheless, the scientific study of leadership itself only began in the early 20th century. Since then, scientists have formulated hundreds of definitions of leadership.

Organizations, companies, governments, and even countries in this era of the industrial revolution 4.0 will need leaders who not only have big dreams but also dare to create spectacular works in the face of the current era of disruption. In leading, a leader must be deep in looking at the smallest gaps in all aspects of life. Figuring out various phenomena or problems that develop including any phenomena that may occur, where it becomes homework for a leader to make a strategic plan.

Therefore, what is demanded in 21st century society is superior and visionary leadership. Four main agendas of leadership development in the 21st century to remain a “champion”, (1) become a strategic partner, (2) become an expert, (3) become an accomplished worker, and (4) become an agent of change.  In the 21st century, a society of mega-competitions. In the 21st century, there is no place without competition. Competition has been and will be a new principle of life, as the world opens and competes to do something better. On the other hand, competitive societies can give birth to frustrated humans if not prepared as well as possible. A competitive society thus demands continuous change and development.

The leader must be able to prepare everything therefore they can continue to adapt in a rapidly changing environment. The success or failure of an organization, company, government, and even a country is determined by leadership factors, and in leadership, there are leaders and followers. Leadership is not only a leader who can lead their resources but also a leader who can lead in all changes and differences. In the era of the industrial revolution 4.0, a leader must be able to unite and give a clear direction, have a vision that is not only a vision for the organization or company but bigger, which has influence and is useful.

The above figure shows that, in the 21st century, a new paradigm is needed in the fields of leadership, management, and development in the face of new problems and challenges. The preparation of a new paradigm demands a breakthrough process of thinking (break through thinking process), especially if what we want is an output in the form of people, goods and services that are competitive. In this regard, the following will be presented the main subjects of the 21st century, while still paying attention to various developments in previous leadership paradigms that are considered valid in facing the subjects and challenges of this century.

Management in the 21st century will depend on the three factors that sustain it: leadership, processes, and organization. The most valuable asset for 21st century leaders is the ability to build dreams just like entrepreneurs do.

The first factor, the leader of the 21st century is a leader who has competence in the form of the ability to develop peoplistic communication, emotion and belief, multi-skill, and have next mentality.  Leaders who succeed in pursuing and working on their dreams use communication and inspire everyone in the organization to also believe in their dreams. Therefore, the competence of the leader is characterized by a populist attitude not individualistic. Keep in mind that “you can have the best communication system, but if you are individualistic as a leader the organization suffers”. A populist communicator develops a friendly climate where everyone can communicate quickly. In large organizations communication can fail due to bureaucratic levels and people receive only about 10% of the information needed. “The 21stcentury leader will be a firm believe in such peoplistic communication, which is fast and all in involving”.  “You should touch the heart, touch the mind, touch the emotion”. Emotional commitment is invaluable to management. To gain commitment to a new strategy, it can be taken by involving people in the preparation of the strategy, and by reducing the period between the conceptualization of the strategy and its implementation. As for believe, it is stated that “that should be the 21st century leader’s watchword”; and there is a fundamental difference between accepting and believing. Regarding multi-skill competence, “21st century leaders will become more multi-skill than their 20th”… “one of the important characteristics of multi-skill leader is the ability to encourage diversity”. Because the real organizational challenge in the 21st century is not geographical distance but cultural differences. The next mentality, seen as the key to the success of 21st century organizations, includes hard working, never satisfied, idea-centric, curious, and persistent.

The second factor, the 21st century process focuses on core activities (core practices), covering four critical areas in the form of grass root education, fire prevention, direct interaction, and effective globalization. Grass root education is intended for education and training that involves all staff without discrimination, fire prevention is intended as insight and an effort to increase the duration of usefulness in the production and distribution of certain products.  Direct interaction, 21st century organizations emphasize more on customer enthusiasm in the side of its satisfaction; “Customer enthusiasm means excitement and loyalty on the part of customer, fueled by the service and product available to them exceeding their expectations”. Effective globalization: Globalization always carries different risks from one country to another. The problem is how quickly the response in the face of dramatic changes that occur. In that relationship, management must: study local culture, local market, and local competition; prepare a business model that effectively serves the market needs; select the right strategic local partner or group at the best local market knowledge; encourage employees by maintaining local values; introduce new and innovative product, with local flavor.

The third factor, 21st century organizations committed to the quality of human resources. The driving force of behind a 21st century organization will be it people…. people manage people, inside and outside an organization. Effective management of people is a challenge managers will increasingly face in the 21st century.

The ideal figure of a leader in the 21st and future centuries is certainly unlikely to be the same as the previous leader because the challenges and situations he faced were very different. The crescendo of the leader of the future must be more than the leader that exists now. Leaders in this near, short, and fast world must be people who are not enough with people who have mediocre abilities, people who are held hostage with a conventional lifestyle and mindset, those who are not strong enough to break free from the confines of rigid traditions and rituals and shackles.

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