How New Managers Will Master the Challenges of 21st Century Leadership

Last Updated: 06 Jul 2020
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Over the past 15 years there has been a change in the working environment in the organizations. Businesses today have become complex than ever before. There are the baby boomers and the generation X and Y workers and together they expect the managers to acquire special leadership skills in order to integrate the multi generational workforce.

Globally the top executives need to interact with individuals from all around the globe almost everyday. There is a transformation in the business markets with India and China becoming major powers and Asia has recovered from the 1997 crash. The foreign competition has increased. There is a global labor market and in this complex ever changing business environment managers cannot simply rely on the traditional approach of managing the workforce. They need to drive strategies that are a lot more sophisticated and constructive. Market forces will keep on changing and they will demand more from our leaders. This is due to increasing globalization and the multinationals emerging as a result of mergers and takeovers. Coming in contact with this new diverse work force will require more technical expertise and a different kind of a leader.

The 21st century leader is a one who understands well the current scenario unlike the older style leader who would only know about sales, marketing and finance, his knowledge will not be limited. The 21st century leader is the one who can gel everyone in the organization together and lead the market too.

The idea behind doing this study is to find out the trend in the 21st century markets. The changing pattern of the workforce and the business markets and that how that has led towards the change in the way managers take decisions and organize organizational resources in today’s time. There are different kinds of challenges that the managers come across and there are different ways of dealing with those challenges. This requires different leadership styles based on the type of decision and situation.

Management and Learning opportunities

The challenges of the managers in the 21st century will include traditional method of learning as well as the newer ones. Managers today require new skills and areas of development. Managers perform a variety of different tasks at work. They are doing multitasking. There are opportunities of learning all the time. It depends on an individual whether to explore them or under utilize those opportunities (Robbins, 2004). Learning is an unconscious process where one tends to learn through trial and error in all kinds of difficult business situations.

Managers believe that the most important way of learning is through experience. Every activity that a manager undertakes gives one an opportunity to learn in the form of why the work was done, how it was done and the end result. The analysis of the work is an opportunity to learn. In this way it is the organization itself that gives so many opportunities to the manager (Robbins, 2004). Effective managers are those that learn and move on. They pass on this knowledge further to their subordinates.  This learning is not only confined towards the success of a problem. Learning is also when going through pressure at difficult times yet failing in the end. There is no end to the learning process.

Technology Revolution

Managers today have come to realize that communication today is way different then what it was years ago. Most professional work is done through PC’s at the desk and phones in the pocket. The explosion of internet and advancement in IT has improved the means of communication and made it a lot easier, fast and convenient. The true successful managers of the next century will be differentiated on the basis that how they access the relevant information with the use of technology through the most efficient way and then take decisions based on that information.  They need to develop skills in order to cope up with the changing technology and be flexible enough to implement it on time.

Market Forces

The market forces will continue to expand in the future too as the world has become a global village. Companies are experiencing economies of scale. They are buying in bulk and producing in bulk. They are making huge profits and sales offering a variety of different goods and services. The race between speed and quality is very high. However, increasing in size doesn’t guarantee success. In the United States there were 100 companies at the start of 20 century and now only 16 are present (Robbins, 2004). Survival is a major challenge that companies are facing today. The supply of labor has become diverse. Labor needs to possess variety of skills and expertise in order to be contributing towards the success of the organization. As a manager companies need the right person at the right job who can come up with newer ideas and meet the requirement of the job (Leadership as a boss in the workplace).

Cross-cultural interaction

Businesses have expanded globally dynamically. Cross cultural issues does not affect international marketing alone but also the working of organizations too. There are people from different cultures, background and religion working together at one place. It is the challenge of the manager to deal with the differences among the employees and not let that affect the performance of the over all productivity and outcome of the firm. For these understanding different cultures is very important. For those who deal with foreign delegates a lot then understanding cultures becomes mandatory on them. The ones who travel a lot they at times tend to learn a variety of languages in order to facilitate them in the communication process.

People Issues

This means the relationship among the co workers and the organization .Previously these issues were confined to the area of human resource of an organization but now it has become a critical issue for managers. In the 21st century there will be more self employed, temporary and part time workers. The challenge to the 21st century manager is that the staff of tomorrow will have entirely different expectations from the work and the organization. One of the key issues would be to balance the needs of the employees and yet keep the customers happy.

As the workforce is becoming more diverse those businesses which are willing to take the diverse labor force without any differentiation on the basis of cast, color or race will be able to retain a talented pool of labor. The work itself will demand a pool of creativity. This will be an opportunity for the managers to make teams that are adaptable, flexible and effective.

Retaining the best employee in the organization is itself a challenge. Employees tend to switch jobs on a short notice due to better job opportunities else where. Therefore job training, employee development and constant retraining will be normal routine. Labor are the most productive asset of any organization. They contribute directly towards the success of the firm. Organizations will spend huge amounts just to get the best applicant for their job in the competitive markets and more investment is made in order to retain those employees. Similarly companies will demand more out of their work force such as follows (Robbins, 2004):

Innovation and creativity
Flexible, adaptable and competitive
Focus on the results
Accept accountability
Contribute to the over all goals and mission
Leadership Competencies

One of the most important roles of a manager apart from controlling, planning organizing the resources is leading the organization. Not all managers are effective leaders. The ability to adapt to changes and become flexible, to manage multiple tasks and take decisions simultaneously, to understand the goals of the organization and track the success of the business, motivate the employees and understand the needs of the customer and keep the organization as one team is what is going to differentiate successful managers from ordinary ones.

Learning Methods

To cope up with the challenges of the 21st century it is not that traditional ways are not required any more. It’s just that they are not sufficient. These methods include learning through books and case studies. In order to compete with the strong market forces, the changing labor demands and leadership roles there are new educational models that are needed which are in line with the older ways of learning. Giving timely feedback to the learners is necessary. In this way the learner can improve on the problem and can enhance his performance so that the employee can get positive feedback in future.

The 21st Century Leader

Leadership is the most significant part of a job. In the changing business environment it’s difficult to meet the challenges of today. One has to be a role model for the staff .you need to possess a personality that everybody looks up to you. Today’s leader is influential and identifies the weakness and opportunities of a project before starting it. He thinks through a wider perspective. He has all the information He keeps up with the rapid change in technology and is creative (Ciampa, 2005). Their job is to develop the organization in a way that it is adaptable to change in the external environment. He does not panic during unforeseen circumstances. Different situations do not require the same behavior. Before taking on the responsibility of the organization the leaders need to be self aware of your own weaknesses and strong attributes. Successful leaders are those who use their strong attributes in order to overcome their weaknesses and hire those people whose strengths can complement with their weaknesses (Ciampa, 2005).

Importance of Communication for Leaders

In a professional life great communication and interpersonal skills are very important. Great leaders are those who possess the ability to communicate powerfully their ideas and make the other person follow that. Due to the business world flourishing globally one has to travel and communicate with people around the world. The leader should be able to communicate any change to the business and strategies that are being implemented to the team members that are working along with him (Leadership as a boss in the workplace).

Effective Leaders

There are various styles of leadership. As the world has changed some styles that were used by our great grand fathers in the past seem to be less effective in today’s time. Following are one of the most effective leadership styles of the 21st century:

1.      Visionary leader

This is where the leader sets a vision for the employees and they contribute to fulfill the dream. This is one of the most effective styles.

2.      Coaching

In this style the leader finds out the needs of the employees and based on those needs and wants he would connect it to the organizations needs and wants. This style would bring the interest of the employees into the work as they would set long term goals and work for them.

3.      Affiliative

Under this leadership style the leader encourages team work. Such team work builds healthy relationship among employees as their commitment and loyalty increases towards work and the organization.

4.      Democratic

This kind of leadership encourages the ideas and feedback from the employees and make them part of the decision making process. The employees feel important and part of the organization. It increases their morale and satisfaction from work which in turn is better for the growth of the business.

However there are two other leadership styles that are relatively less effective and they are as follows:

5.      Pacesetting

Under this situation the leader sets a target and a goal that all the team members have to achieve; this kind of leadership style is effective in highly competitive business environment with a confident and motivated work force.

6.  Commanding

This is where the leader takes all the decisions himself without any contribution from the employees. Such kind of leadership style is least effective in the 21st century organizations. It can be used during times of crises but under normal circumstances such style of leadership should be avoided.


The paper was written in order to discuss the different kinds of changes in the dynamic business environment that has happened over the years due to globalization. These changes have brought in rising expectations from the customers, employees and organizations point of view. The international environment is changing. To deal with such rapid pace of advancement there is a need for the 21st century’s managers to adapt themselves. Such adaptation is necessary in order to cope up with the revolution in technology and live up to the expectations of everyone. The traditional ways of managing and leading are still practiced but those methods are in sufficient to deal with all the problems of today’s time. A manager is a person who manages the resources of the business in the most effective way, plans them and organizes them; he’s responsible for leading the workforce and keeps them motivated. His role and affectivity is necessary for the success of the organization in accomplishing its long term goals. If there is no clear and effective communication then the manager would never be able to make the employees understand the importance of the work and the strategies that are to be followed. If the manager fails to motivate the employees then the de motivated workforce will never be able to meet the objectives of the business. Hence the managers of the 21st century apart from being an effective leader need to be well versed, knowledgeable, experienced and flexible.


Ciampa, Dan. (2005) Almost Ready: How Leaders Move Up. Harvard Business Review 83

Judge, Timothy (n.d.). Motivating by changing environment

“Leadership as a boss in the workplace” Retrieved September 09, 2008 from:

Robbins, Stephen P (2004). Organizational Behavior, 11th Edition. Prentice Hall.


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How New Managers Will Master the Challenges of 21st Century Leadership. (2018, Apr 27). Retrieved from

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