What Does Today’s Great Leader Look Like?

modern leader

A great leader today looks vastly different than leaders of yesteryears. So, why are the same leadership training practices still used?

Since the concept of great leadership is highly subjective and leaves new store owners craving definitive answers, senior leader Roselinde Torres of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) decided to dedicate her entire career to uncovering what it takes to be a great leader today.

On TED Talk, which provides short videos daily of speakers discussing technology, entertainment and design (TED) topics, Torres outlines her study of 4,000 companies who were asked to detail the effectiveness of their leadership development programs. The research revealed more than half (58%) of the companies studied failed to produce great leaders, citing “significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles” despite coaching, corporate training, offsite coaching and assessments.

The dilemma plagued Torres so greatly that she quit her job cultivating and advising CEOs at Fortune 500 companies to spend the next 25 years observing and investigating what makes great leaders. Though efforts were obviously made to implement and improve leadership skills and potential, she saw a disturbing trend emerge: recurring stories of frustrated leaders and leadership teams continued to surface.

Repeatedly hearing recounts of bad leadership lead Torres to pose two questions: First, why are the leadership gaps widening when there’s so much more investment in leadership development? And, what are the great leaders doing distinctly different to thrive and grow? She studied non-profits, presidential libraries, other countries and their leaders, and collaborated with respected colleagues to find answers.

Unexpectedly, Torres uncovered that, although the 21st century is more globally capable, innovative, digitally enabled, data-driven and transparent, continuing to utilize and implement traditional leadership development practices in today’s world will “stunt growth as a leader.”

Torres believes strong leadership in the 21st century can be unveiled by asking three critical questions:

1. Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?

Here, great leaders should turn to their calendar for answers, she says. Reflect on who you surround yourself with, what topics you discuss and where you plan to travel. Within a leadership team, share current or foreseeable trends and topics that affect you and other teammates to guide your decision-making process. Use the impactful factors your leadership team discussed to help mold proactive, course-correcting strategies.

2. What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional stakeholder network?

Torres states your network needs to extend past your comfort zone. Are you capable of forming relationships with people very different from you? By diversifying your personal and professional networks with others of different cultural, political, socioeconomic, physical or political backgrounds, you’ll find optimal solutions to problems and better achieve goals by bringing together various perspectives.

3. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

Again, Torres urges leaders to break free of the familiar. “Great leaders dare to be different,” she states. They are courageous, risk-takers and nontraditional thinkers. Encourage yourself and your new store’s leaders to be confident. Resilient self-assurance is necessary for strong leadership, as new ideas are often dismissed or deemed as brash by others.

Solid, impactful leadership stems from those who are “… preparing themselves not for the comfortable predictability of yesterday, but also for the realities of today and all of those unknown possibilities of tomorrow.” Ask yourself the three critical leadership questions Torres presented, and review your store’s current leadership training practices. To be – and employ – a great leader, you’ll need to make sure your leadership opportunities are from this century.

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Scott Kuhn

About Scott Kuhn

Scott is CEO of Sheehy, a regional advertising, marketing and media agency. He has been helping companies plan and execute store grand openings and remodels for more than 20 years.

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