The other day I noticed a question on one of the LinkedIn groups I belong to that asked the question: Do We Need Leaders? It is one of those questions that does make you think. To many it might seem sort of a foregone conclusion, of course we need leaders, I mean how would difficult things get accomplished? Yet there is a rising tide of thought that says perhaps the concept of leaders may very have run its course. Consider Bill George’s words in a 2007 BusinessWeek article entitled, Where Have All the Leaders Gone? In speaking about today’s knowledge workers, George writes:
“Their approach to leadership is entirely different . . . They don’t care about position,
power or status or organizational hierarchy, or even having followers. Instead, they are superb networkers who find collaborators to create opportunities and businesses. They are on line 24/7 always networking; always in touch . . . The emerging leaders are knowledge workers who typically know more than their bosses. They collaborate with people who have skills they don’t, growing up with diversity as the norm, they understand the benefits of a diverse people working together to solve the world’s most pressing problems.”
No wonder people are asking, Do We Really Need Leaders? From where I sit, I think leaders are absolutely essential to any organizational mix. But their roles as leaders have changed. No longer order givers where others just follow their demands, today’s 21st century leaders have evolved into initiators of the process of leadership–architects, if you will, of a collaborative environment that brings together a mix of diverse talents focusing action and energy into a force for transforming change.
Complexity drives the need for collaboration and a 21st century leader faces complexity each and every day. Moreover, 21st Century leaders no longer view followers as such, but as partners in dealing with difficult challenges. It is not easy, but I really can’t see any other way, can you?