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Did you ever notice that In our American culture, we have the tendency to look outside of ourselves for leadership? That’s a trap. Isn’t it time we looked inside ourselves to see how we can be the leader we want and need to be in the 21st century?  I certainly think so.

Leadership used to be about telling people what to do. We saw the manager as "hero." Managers were needed to solve problems, needed for their technical expertise and their know-how. They were needed to keep the ship running in tiptop shape!   

All our old leadership models came from the military, where people took their command from a few people at the top. These models don’t work in today’s world. As the industrial age models rust, the power has shifted from the people who sell, to the people who buy.   

Today’s business leader needs to a master juggler, and a compassionate listener. She needs to be savvy and intuitive and sharp as a tack in business matters. Most of all today’s leader needs to be able to mobilize HUMAN energy, align it and direct it towards a single goal – creating more value for the customer. This, in turn creates a more profitable company. Companies that have high levels of customer happiness and employee happiness outperform those who don’t. It’s pretty simple.

I believe there are seven traits of successful leaders for the 21st Century.

Creative thinker – Einstein said, "The world we have created is a product of our way of thinking" Nothing will change in the future without fundamentally new ways of thinking.  

If we want to create a new world we have to first change our thinking and thinking patterns. 80% of the population thinks reactively. They take action to make something go away (usually a problem.) The other 20% are creative thinkers – they take action to make something come into being (the creation.)

Creative thinkers thrive on the question "What’s Possible?" Reactive thinkers ask, "What’s wrong?" or "Who’s to blame?" Reactive thinkers live in reaction and response to circumstances. Creative thinkers go beyond circumstances.

The next quality of tomorrow’s leader is "Change readiness." The Change-ready individual embraces change. They understand the process of change and how it affects most people, and is skilled at enrolling people in it with a minimum amount of fear.

Most people do resist change – that’s because it forces us right out of our comfort zones.  A leader knows how to move people out of their comfort zones with dignity and respect. He helps people share a "common understanding" of the past and why they need to change it and then provides them with a positive image of their future along with actions they can all agree will move them in the right direction.

A leader is a Landscape Architect.   It’s her primary job to build a living environment– called culture.  Culture is the soul of the enterprise. Today’s leader is a master "culture-crafter."  He or she sculpts and crafts an environment that stimulates, excites and invites people to be the best they can be.

The architect leader knows that the ability to create a nourishing and challenging environment for people to grow in is more important than any technical skill she can possess.  

Continuous Improvement – The leader of tomorrow will regularly challenge old beliefs and be passionate about learning and about applying that learning in the real world. She will often ask my favorite question "Who is doing something differently then I am and what can I learn from them?"   

The New Leader is Authentic.  How and who you are is just as important as what you know!  Hold yourself to the highest standards – don’t talk the talk unless you are prepared to walk the walk. Don’t expect of others what you don’t expect from your self. Be real, tell the truth.  The leaders that are the most revered are those that let the light of who they are shine through in all they do. They are honest, forthright and clear.   

Coach/Facilitator – A leader needs to be a coach not a commander. He needs to hold space open for things to happen. It is said that when leaders do their job properly people believe they have done it themselves. Leaders are there to help people see things from a different perspective, to provide questions that encourage learning and to help turn work experiences into learning experiences.  
Our new leader is a Visionary.  It’s clearly documented that visionary leaders are successful at mobilizing human potential.  A vision provides focus. It’s a tool for aligning energy. Clear vision and purpose provide people with a framework from which to make decisions, it organizes action and effort.  

Clearly a need for a new leadership style exists. Take a good look at your style and see if you are prepared for living and leading in the 21st century.

Want to find out more about how to be a powerful and compassionate leader 21st century leader – check out our weekly training program at

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This Business article was written by JoAnna Brandi on 3/7/2005

JoAnna Brandi is Publisher of the Customer Care Coach ™ a weekly training program on mastering “”The Art and Science of Exquisite Customer Care.”” She is the author of “”Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep ’em Happy, Keep ’em Loyal and Keep ’em Coming Back”” and “”Building Customer Loyalty – 21 Essential Elements in ACTION”” she writes a free email tip on customer caring. You can sign up at and