Archive for January, 2010

The Need for 21st Century Leadership

January 8, 2010

I consistently maintain and call for a new manner of organizational thinking in this 21st Century.  In order for innovation to thrive, the 20th Century mindset of only 11 years ago must be cast aside.  Add this to dismissing antiquated Industrial Age concepts, organizational leadership must accept a new mindset such as removing fear and intimidation as management tools.

With regard to fear as a leadership tool, the 21st Century worker/employee seldom accepts such behavior from leadership.  This employee, who is a “Gen-Y” or “Millennial”, has been exposed to tools such as the Internet while becoming used to being more appreciated for their talent are far removed from their parents’ and grandparents’ days of employment.  Gone is the notion of working for one organization, only in rare circumstances, for 20 or 30 years.  The “Great Recession” of 2008 substantiated how employees are viewed as a “cost” rather than a valued resource.  Thus, this type of motivation to achieve increased and competitive productivity serves only to damage an organization’s prosperity.

Organizational leadership’s fear of the unknown, or acting upon non-conventional ideas, hampers prosperity.  Sadly, many organizations, such as the some public-sector entities, fear to adopt or even consider innovative ideas because of fear.  Many of these examples point directly to the leadership’s ego or pride.  For example, leadership fears losing “organizational credibility” and a self-imposed perception of an organizational oracle should a project fail, or not perform optimally.  Leadership fear their pension, income, etc. will be removed, and not maintain the lifestyle or social stature.

As a Lean Business Process and Innovation professional, I experience such barriers to progressive innovation too often in many projects.  The combination of fear laced with antiquated habits, or mindset, continually curtail identifying solutions to systemic problems.  This toxic combination also prevents efficient processes and innovative products that enhance one’s manner of living, or successfully competing. 

This brings me to how President Obama and his Security team responded to the thankfully failed Christmas 2009 airline terrorist attempt.  During his press announcement on 7 January 2010, he placed his focus upon failures in the “system”.  He did not, as called for in 20th  Century practices, immediately terminate anyone’s job because of the security breach.  This is how leadership in a new age, if it cares about being successful, must act.  Identify the systemic problem to ensure a better process rather than ensuring a potentially better process via fear by having an employee’s head placed upon a platter.

Innovation is achieved via collaboration, mutual respect where peers devote tireless energy to accomplish a common goal for the good of the whole.  A perfect example can be viewed via this link:  Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, points to how innovation is suppressed in an Anderson Cooper 360 interview.

President Obama’s speech can be view via this link: