The 21st Century Influencer

Since the proliferation of digital media types,  much more information is being consumed by an engaged public about the lives of those who lead. Grave blunders are easily publicized and the incompetence of those who rise to positions of leadership is magnified through the lens of social media. Salacious stories become the topic of the day at lunches, by the water cooler or better yet, across networks of fiber optics and cables ending in the palm of our hands.

For many leaders, unaccustomed to the intense glare of the public light on their activities, navigating this new world can be a nightmare. Many have buckled under the pressure of increased scrutiny with the façade that worked for years being stripped away and exposing ineptitude.

Leaders are influencers and should earn that title, as they are engaged to present  viable options towards a desirable outcome. The act of influencing becomes a very important ingredient for success and will occur when the constituents believe in the plan that is being articulated.

The 21st century leader is a different animal from his predecessors. He/she has matured in an age of great accomplishments in technology as well as the tons of information available. This type of leader is agile, taking account of the environment as well as its competitors. Agility also informs being able to make the “right” decisions at the “right” time. I love to use the analogy of the cheetah in explaining this new breed as it sums up what is becoming a necessity in the competitive market space.

The cheetah pauses, assessing its environment. Within its visual frame is the prey. Motivated by perhaps hunger, it watches as it engages the element of strategy. When the conditions align, it bolts out of its covered space, closing the distance before the startled prey comprehends what is happening. The agility of the cheetah is strengthened by its focus on the goal as well as its current appraisal of its environment.

Years ago, I read a book published by Pascale (2000). Anecdotal references are made to the theory of nature and businesses, both impacted by the narrative of transformation. A very powerful source for today’s leader, there is a chapter that continues to inform my personal choices. The authors submit in three words that “equilibrium is death”. I do not think anyone will challenge that statement, especially after examining their own personal stories. Pascale et. al (2000) spoke to the issue of adaptability and this is equally important as being agile.

“Consider the dodo bird, now extinct. In its native South Pacific habitats, the dodo enjoyed a stable and congenial environment safe from predators. Lulled into a state of equilibrium during a prolonged evolutionary cycle, this docile and defenseless fifty-pound bird became incapable of flight. Abruptly it became fatally vulnerable to sailors and settlers with firearms.”

In every facet of our current life, we are beset by external forces that alter our course. Making the transition from traditional ways of doing things to embracing innovation, allows for  the continued survival of the species. The 21st century leader is being crafted by continuous events in his global environment. He/she must keep apace with the changes that are potential threats by championing the need to be versatile and agile. Failure to do so will undoubtedly produce mayhem and extinction.

Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013

Pascale, R. T., Millemann, M., & Gioja, L. (1999). Surfing the edge of chaos. Creative Management and Development.
Photo Credit: Retrieved from Google Images, December 26, 2013

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