The mystery of what leaders can and ought to do in order to spark the best performance from their followers is age-old. According to Badshah (2012), leadership is one of the most complex and multifaceted phenomena to which organizational and psychological research has been applied. While the term “leader” was noted as early as in the 13th century and conceptualized even before biblical times, the term leadership came into existence only in the late 17th century, with scientific research beginning only in the 20th Century creating a field of intensive research.
However, as Burns (1974) pointed out, leadership is one of the most observed yet least understood phenomena on earth. Since then, that mystery has produced tons of books, articles, courses, etc., and thousands of leadership experts have made careers of testing and coaching – all in pursuit of creating businesspeople who can turn bold objectives into reality. Still, effective leadership eludes many people and organizations (Goleman, 2000).
In addition to this difficulty, we should sum another one: defining the new leadership standards to face actual challenges of organizations. In fact, rapid social, environmental and technological changes are taking place that are transforming the coordination of how we organize ourselves, and what kind of leadership is needed in the 21st century. Post-industrialism, the knowledge economy, globalization, environmental change, the hi-tech revolution and network society, digital labor, cognitive labor and the nomadic and virtual worker, all reference a new zeitgeist that demands new leadership and new organizational forms (Western, 2013).
“Capitalism needs to evolve, and that requires different types of leaders from what we’ve had before. Not better leaders, because every period has its own challenges, but leaders who are able to cope with todays challenges. Most of the leadership skills we talk about—integrity, humility, intelligence, hard work—will always be there. But some skills are becoming more important, such as the ability to focus on the long term, to be purpose driven, to think systemically, and to work much more transparently and effectively in partnerships.”
Paul Polman, UNILEVER CEO, May 2015.
The concept of autopoiesis was first introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to express the capacity of a living system to continuously renew itself and to regulate this process in such a way that the integrity of its structure is maintained (Jantsch, 1980). Is this indeed time for organizations to evolve to a new concept of leadership better equipped to cope with todays actual challenges? We believe that the time has arrived to shift from describing tasks to facilitate process. Leadership in this sense should evolve to different skills like building relationships, facilitating creativity, pushing passion and talents, etc.
Goal – What is the research focus?
This research endeavors to analyze, introduce, capture and continually update the new challenges organizations are facing today, in order to introduce new standards for developing leaders. Leadership is a comprehensive term that include several skills aimed at influencing people, reaching the objective, and improve the organization. The aim of the project is to define the skills needed in todays world to cope with actual challenges. Companies are addressing leadership as the major actual challenge, but at the same time, they are also reporting their inability to cope with this issue.
The goal of this project is to:
Present new standards for developing leaders. In this case, leadership refers to both private as well as public organizations. These standards, then, will be used in the training and development of future leaders including those of non-supervisory functions. The aim is to discover what are the most important and urgent skills leaders need to cope with actual challenges, thus establishing best practice to develop those skills.
Research insight – Why are we looking at it?
The 21st century workforce is global, highly connected, technology-savvy, and demanding. Its employees are youthful, ambitious and filled with passion and purpose. Millennials are a major force – but so are older workers, who remain engaged and valuable contributors. Critical new skills are scarce – and their uneven distribution around the world is forcing companies to develop innovative new ways to find people, develop capabilities, and share expertise.
The Global Human Capital Trends (2014) elaborated by Deloitte, consisting of a survey conducted in the last quarter of 2013 that included 2,532 business and HR leaders in 94 countries, found one issue as the most urgent – building global leadership. The second most urgent issue – retention and engagement – is strictly linked to the first one. Companies see a continuous need for new and better leaders. In a world where knowledge doubles every year and skills have a half-life of 2.5 to 5 years, leaders need constant development. This ongoing need to develop leaders is also driven by the changing expectations of the workforce and the evolving challenges businesses are facing (Deloitte, 2014).
This project will examine and consider theoretical and empirical dimensions of modern leadership and motivation theories. HR is not a HR Manager competence anymore, but rather a strategic tool. The project will analyze in depth the challenges organizations are facing today and will face tomorrow. Finally, the project will define the standards in leadership needed to cope with present and future challenges.
In recent years, scholars have introduced the concept of Strategic Human Resource Management that is about how the employment relationships for all employees can be managed in such a way as to contribute optimally to the organization’s goal achievement (Legge, 2006). Probably, the solution to this new organizational order relies in a kind of leadership where complex controls leaves space to the presence of few guiding principles, well established and communicated, and to a high level of autonomy.
If we adopt this perspective, organizations are not anymore “something to be constantly controlled”, but “something that can learn and with the capacity of self-renewing”. Every role in an organization should be seen as a reaction channel to change and grow the entire organization. In this perspective, the definition of leadership of the US Army (FM 22-100) is perfect: “leadership is influencing people – by providing purpose, direction, and motivation – while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization”, while talking not only about influence and mission, but also perpetual improvement.
In this perspective, therefore, it is important to determine the new “standards” leaders of the future should adopt. In particular, more than a new theory on leadership, it should presented as a new model for more effective leadership.
The following research areas have been identified:
- What exists: compare current leadership theories, methods and approaches.
- What exists: indicate most urgent challenges organizations are facing today.
- What are the skills/competencies needed to face these new challenges?
- What are the virtues or energizing forces of future leaders?
- How future leaders should be trained for future challenges?
- What are the new principles of leadership?
- What are the new levels of leadership?
- What are the new mantras of leadership?
- Which steps need to be introduced to train new leaders?
- How we should integrate these steps into business development?
- How should we measure the leadership development?
- How should we measure the leadership success?
The Enterprise Leadership research contacts are:
Dr. Salvatore Moccia
Faculty MBA, Director External and International Development
Catholic University of Valencia, Spain
Global University Alliance Coordinator:
Professor Mark von Rosing
Head of Global University Alliance, Denmark
UNESCO Coordinator Chair Holder:
Dr. Selin N. Şenocak
UNESCO Chair Holder
Cultural Diplomacy, Governance and Education
Director, Occidental Studies Applied Research Center
Political Sciences and International Relations Faculty Member
Henrik von Scheel
LEADing Practice, CEO, Switzerland
The team that is also involved in this work area are the following academics, researchers and analysts:
- Leadership Ontology (meta objects), Professor Wim Laurier
- Leadership Semantics (relations and rules), Professor Simon Polovina
- Leadership Reporting & Information Decision Models, Professor Hans Scheruhn
- Leadership Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Ulrik Foldager
- Leadership Skills/Competencies, Maria Hove