The environment in which leaders of today operate is increasingly global. It is important to note, from the onset, that today's globalized environment significantly differs from the environment business operated in a couple of decades ago. In addition to being fast-paced, today's business environment is also more competitive and complex. The demands of the current era have meant that leaders of today must embrace new leadership approaches -- different from those applied by their predecessors two or three decades ago.
The Need to Appreciate Diversity
Today, every leader, as Daft (2014, p. 326) points out, "needs to understand the complexity of diversity issues, learn to create an inclusive culture, and support the development of minorities…" Unlike was the case a few decades ago, today's leaders are expected to lead teams of individuals, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds, ethnic roots, and have different motivations. It is important to note that contrary to popular opinion, this has not only affected leaders of multinational organizations. Given the changing migration patterns, business entities that have not ventured out of their home countries are also hiring workers who do not necessarily come from the home countries of the said businesses. The global nature of today's trade also means that leaders must understand the needs of clients other than those from their home countries. What is important in the current setup is therefore the need for leaders to be more culturally aware.
The workforce has changed. Thanks to globalization, today's workforce is different from that of the past -- meaning that cultural and language factors have been added into the fray. As a matter of fact, today's leaders manage teams comprising of people fished from diverse backgrounds, in terms of race, color, etc. In that regard, therefore, leaders of today must take into account cultural and language factors when coming up with, or formulating personnel procedures and policies. Unlike their predecessors, leaders of today must possess a higher degree of sensitivity.
In the past, businesses were largely local-minded -- meaning that outlook was not global. Those in the employ of such businesses, therefore, were largely similar with regard to the values they shared and their general expectations - with regard to how they related with each other. All this has, however, changed. Most businesses registered in a specified jurisdiction have operations in various markets across the world -- meaning that they engage employees from all walks of life. Leaders of today must, therefore, adapt their approach to leadership in such a way that they are able effectively run a multinational organization whose employees have different experiences and values. According to Stephenson (2011), what may look good to an individual from North America could be offensive to a person from Asia. This, according to the author, is not to suggest that the leader ought to know each and every cultural nuance. Instead, a leader ought to be aware and appreciative of the sensitivities of other people.
Diversity, if managed well, is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, the proper mix of employees from diverse backgrounds is critical to organizational success. This is particularly the case given that employees from diverse backgrounds bring into the workplace unique values and strengths that could be of great benefit to the organizational in the future (Daft, 2014).
Leadership Behavior and Actions
Today, the best leaders, as Stephenson (2011) observes are not only transparent but also open and careful with regard to their political, environmental, and ethical actions. According to the author, "never before have missteps, rumors and ill-considered words become so instantly accessible to millions of people" (Stephenson, 2011). Bad decisions on the pat of a leader could cost the organization the support it requires, be it from customers, donors, or even the general public. It should be noted that today, unlike was the case a few decades ago, business leaders are also required to be more mindful of one key stakeholder, i.e. The community. As a matter of fact, addressing societal challenges is increasingly being seen as an approach towards the creation of value.
It is also important to note that the purpose as well as role of leaders is fast changing in the 21st century. According to Gitsham (2012), "a generation ago, the prevailing attitude was that it was the role of political leaders to address the big societal issues of the day, and definitely not the role of business leaders." In the words of Gitsham (2012), leaders of some of the best-known multinationals are increasingly "defining their success in terms of things that have conventionally been the realm of political leaders and NGO activists." To drive his point home, the author recounts an instance where Paul Polman, the C.E.O of Unilever, pointed out that the firm had reviewed its strategy; in which case the company would seek to double its size "by channeling its efforts towards achieving eight ambitious goals by 2020 -- among them, doubling the portion of Unilever's portfolio that meets the highest nutritional standards, and halving the water associated with the consumer use of its products" (Gitsham, 2012). Although this would not seem, to most, as a typical corporate strategy, it is just an indication of a new approach to leadership, where basic human rights are being respected more, and where everyone, including top business executives, is seeking to further improve the overall quality of life. Unilever's new strategy, just as is the case with many other strategies being formulated by businesses in today's globalized business environment, "is formulated in direct response to that quest for improved quality of life in a much more resource-constrained context" (Gitsham, 2012). Other entities that are reformulating their strategies include GSK, IBM, and BP. For instance, GSK, as Gitsham (2012) points out, seeks to grow by further enhancing the accessibility of drugs in developing countries.
The Need for Enhanced Relations with Key Stakeholders
Closely related to the point highlighted above is the increased need for leaders of today to work closely with other stakeholders including, but not limited to, the government, suppliers, and even customers. In the words of Gitsham (2012), leaders of today "must be able to engage meaningfully with multiple constituencies and relate well with all kinds of different actors in society." According to the author, unlike the previous generation of leaders, leaders of today are more proactive -- in that they are more likely to actively engage with policy makers in an attempt to not only energize but also influence policy. As John Brock, the chairman of Coca Cola Enterprises points out, today's leaders have more constituencies than those leaders who came before them (Gitsham, 2012).
The Relevance of a Charismatic Approach to Leadership
Leaders of today also ought to be more charismatic. Charisma, as Adair (2009) observes is authority based on the personality of an individual. Various styles of leadership that have worked perfectly in the past may not work as well in the new dispensation. Indeed, as Stephenson (2011), points out, "the hierarchical, command and control structures of the past are gone." In that regard, the author concludes that leaders of today are likely to succeed if they lead via influence, as opposed to through the mere utilization of their positions of power. The autocratic leadership style may have just worked fine a couple of years ago, when the leader was the all-knowing captain charged with charting the course of business and solely responsible for the success or failure of a business entity. Today, the failure or success of a business entity is a shared concern -- meaning that the effort of every individual across the organization is important. This means that employee motivation is becoming an important leadership concept. Indeed, as Durkin (2010) notes, "now more than ever, organizations must be proactive and have the right strategies in place to keep employees motivated." To motivate their employees, leaders must possess a rare skill -- they must be charismatic. The influence of a charismatic leader, as Daft (2014, p. 363) notes, "comes from personal characteristics rather than a formal position of authority.
Over time, there has been a never ending debate on whether charisma is inborn or learnt. In my opinion, charisma could be attained both ways. One could be born with an innate charm and a 'magnetic' personality that draws people to them. On the other hand, people could, through practice, effectively manage their image, such that they are able to demonstrate genuine concern for others and thus draw followers. There are plenty of examples of leaders who could be deemed charismatic. Coincidentally, these are some of the leaders whose businesses continue to thrive in today's globalized environment. Such leaders, in the business world, include but they are not limited to, Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O.), Donald Trump (the chairman of the Trump Organization), and Richard Branson of the Virgin Group of companies. On the political scene, we have Barack Obama (our current president), Bill Clinton (former U.S. president), and to some extent,…