What Does 21st Century Leadership Look And Feel Like?

By Women Love Tech
on 28 July 2020

Katherine Boiciuc, a futurist from Maximus International, takes a look at the future of leadership.

‘When I grow up I want to be a boss like you mummy’ was what my daughter Sofia (10) shared with me last week as I completed her school work with her during lockdown.

Inside I smiled, delighted that she sees a future for herself where she can lead. Later that day I was still thinking about it. When I reflected on why it was rolling around my mind, it struck me. What will leadership look like in 2030 and how is it different to the leadership we know and recognise today?

History rewards and recognises the traits and attributes of 20th Century leadership such as power, control, economic interest driven, winning, constrained by hierarchy, highly egocentric and predominantly lacking in diversity.

People in the workplace

So, I sat down and here is what I’ve come up with so far on what I hope 21st Century leadership looks and feels like.

The leadership of the future is:

  1. Democratised: When we look at our government leadership, our school boards, award shows like the Oscars, our TV screens for the nightly news,  the executive leadership teams of the ASX 200 and the Fortune 500, we see the rich diversity of backgrounds, experiences, cultures, talents, beliefs, sexualities and genders that are present in our population reflected in leadership roles. The rise of activism is not a new trend. However, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the actions of Greta Thunberg amplifying the climate change agenda we are seeing more and more acts of leadership come from new voices, faces and roles in society.
  2. Courageous: As the pace of change increases and the world becomes more connected through technology, the stakes will be increasingly higher for leaders in future. The ability to remained committed to your purpose will be tested. The resilience and grit required to endure challenge but also build momentum and make progress will be the attributes we see from leaders who lead with courage. Leaders that master courage will demonstrate the ability to not only create and access courage from within but also mobilise collective courage with their teams and organisations.
  3. Digitally native: Do you still type or read to access information as a primary source? Fun fact: Our kids are using voice memos to write their emails or assignments and asking Siri, Alexa and Google to tell them the latest news. Leaders of the future access the best of what technology has to offer to bring ideas to life. It is no longer good enough for leaders to know what the leading edge of technologies are and their application potential. How much have you integrated Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, voice recognition, internet of things (IOT), robotics, crypto currencies (I could go on) into your daily life? Leaders will need to be digitally native to be able to access the maximum creation of value for themselves and their organisations.
  4. Creative: Andy Warhol said, “Business is the most fascinating kind of art” and he was right. Leaders of the future will have creativity core in their DNA. They are the designers and architects of the future. They will be able to take a blank page and create something from nothing, in ways we have not yet imagined. More impactful, will be their ability to unleash the creativity in others and their organisation so often constrained by 20th century leadership.
  5. Human: Our new normal requires leaders to make a choice between showing up imperfectly vs not at all. The days of carefully scripted and curated leadership are gone. Leaders are human and the ability to demonstrate vulnerability, acknowledge mistakes, always be learning and leading with both the head and heart will become leadership superpowers. A culture of innovation can only be crafted by leaders the bring together the best bits about being human. Ones that create the space to learn, critically think, build trust, have radical candour, creatively find resolution and make purposeful outcomes achievement the measure of success in terms of legacy they leave behind.
Melanie Perkins
Mel Perkins, co-founder and CEO Canva

I often say the future exists; it is just not evenly distributed. I can see the bright spots of 21st leadership emerging. It is anchored in purpose, harnesses collective wisdom, starts with an abundance mindset and creates value through mobilising and building trust in others to achieve outcomes.

salesforce Pip Marlow
Pip Marlow at Saleforces World Tour Reimagined 2020 © Salty Dingo

You can see the signals if you look for them. Greta Thunberg (climate activist), Jacinda Ardern (NZ prime minister) , Ava Duvernay (Director), Malala Yousafzai (education activist), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (US Congresswoman), Mike Cannon-Brookes (Atlassian), Pip Marlow (Salesforce), Melanie Perkins (Canva), Nicola Rivers and Elizabeth McKinnon joint CEOs (job sharing) at Environmental Justice Australia are all shining the way forward. There has never been a better time to seize the opportunity to create a new status quo for what leadership is. I cannot wait to see what we do.

Katherine Boiciuc

About Katherine Boiciuc

Technologist. Imagineer. Futurist. Katherine is recognised as one of Australia’s 29 Inspirational Women making waves in STEM. She is a global leader with extensive experience in the technology and telco industries. Katherine has held influential roles focused on global impact and world technology enablement. Katherine joined Maximus International after 19 years at Telstra where her team, across 20 countries, delivered services such as strategic execution, CX strategy, and digital enablement including deployment of Tableau, Salesforce and Einstein. She has a rich catalogue of blogs and articles on mentoring advice to women in digital, data, STEM and tech leadership roles.

Katherine has been an advocate and global keynote speaker on diversity in technology, women in Tech and women in data for over a decade. Katherine is an accredited Futurist and is featured in Futurist World on the topic of the Future of Leadership.

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