Dr E Charoux

In last week’s article, we argued that in order to become a leader in our new 21st century, the Mauritian executive will have to perform at least seven critical role changes. We argued that he or she will have to: See Things Holistically; Become a Change Agent; Become Innovators and Risk Takers, and, Perform as Coaches and Mentors. In this week’s article, we examine the last three critical role changes.

Change 5: From ‘Controllers’ to ‘Servants and Stewards’

Traditionally, the job of the leader has been to command and control, inspiring fear and respect. Robert Greenleaf’s (1977) book sparked a radical rethink of leadership when he argued that in the 21st century, the role of the leader should instead be that of a ‘steward’ or ‘servant’ – a theme subsequently picked up and developed by others like Peter Senge. Leaders, according to Greenleaf, must first serve others. True leadership emerges when the leader is able to demonstrate increased service to others, a holistic approach to work, a sense of community, and shared decision-making power.

To do so, they need to suspend their need for control and recognize that their tendency to impose their own values, backgrounds and experiences as superior to those of others, can be a fatal flaw. They need instead to ask themselves whether those they are serving, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become stewards. This is achieved, argues Greenleaf, when the leader is able to listen, demonstrate empathy, heal those in need, persuade those they want to motivate, dream great dreams, display foresight, and demonstrate commitment to the growth and development of both individuals and community.

Change 6: From ‘Specialists’ to ‘Polychronic Coordinators’

Traditionally, the job of the leader has been to use his or her area of specialization to reach the top and once there, rely on the advice of their specialists when handling various problems or issues. Michael Marquardt, in his 1999 book, has highlighted the need for leaders to become what he terms ‘polychronic coordinators’ – individuals who are able to coordinate many things at the same time. Marquardt argues that such leaders must be able to work collaboratively with many others from different backgrounds and cultures, often in unfamiliar settings or with unfamiliar problems, juggling many priorities at the same time. As information technology takes over and project teams become the order of the day, the 21st century leader will have to develop what Walter Kiechel of Fortune magazine, calls an ability to be simultaneously a specialist and a generalist; a team player and a self-reliant individual; a loner as well as one part of a network. In short, flexibility and adaptability will be key psychological characteristics, essential for survival in a fast-changing world.

Change 7: From ‘Focus on Immediate Returns’ to ‘Visionary’

Mauritian leaders, like their counterparts throughout the world, have a strong focus on the proverbial ‘bottom line’. The new leader will have to be equally concerned with building his or her company’s vision and ensure that this vision is shared by all concerned as well as inspire them into action. He or she must not only succeed in accurately ‘painting’ the future employees would want to aspire to, but need to do so with their full collaboration and support.

The content of this article is intended only to provide general guidelines related to this particular matter. For your specific circumstances, full specialist advice is recommended.