New Aspects of Leadership
A significant part of effective leadership is the close connection between the leader and the follower, which often determines the success of the leader’s mission. Unfortunately, this leader-follower relationship cannot be created according to some simple formula. Without inspiration, involvement, and encouragement from both participants, the relationship suffers. Leaders, in particular, must give an extra effort to reach out to followers in order to initiate and develop this alliance that is so critical to the achievement of goals. Young leaders of today face special challenges as they try to communicate and interact with their followers and potential followers. As a result of the changes that are rapidly occurring in the world, three aspects--globalization, human diversity, and ethical issues—are becoming an important influence on leadership, both on a global level and in our own neighborhoods. By exploring global perspectives, human diversity, and ethics, young leaders can take yet another step forward in their development and preparation for twenty-first century leadership.
Globalization has many implications for leadership today and in the future. Earlier this century (and to some extent today), there was a tendency for many people to think locally: one’s hometown was one’s world. Currently, people are realizing that, although this point of view may have been common during that era, globalization is rapidly occurring. As technology and communication improve, barriers between nations disappear, exposing everyone to new cultures. Global perspectives are being spread to the farthest points in the world and to the most isolated people. People of different cultures come to the United States daily to live, travel, or engage in business. Not only that, American individuals and organizations are going to foreign countries as they used to travel to neighboring states. Globalization has become and will continue to be a new way of life that all people must face.
Leaders must respond to this challenge of globalization so they can effectively reach out to as many people as possible. Opening themselves to the world’s changes allows leaders to compare and contrast their culture with the arts, language, beliefs, customs, philosophies, and ways of living of other people. Even minor details of the culture, such as gestures, can be important. By observing and questioning another culture, leaders can understand the origin of an individual’s viewpoints and become more sensitive to the cultural needs of that individual. Therefore, the leaders prove their respect and sincere desire in learning more about that person, thereby starting a relationship and forming a foundation for the achievement of their goal. In addition, they can learn how the countries and cultures of the world work together. By continually exposing themselves to other cultures, young leaders can thoroughly develop this global perspective and devote themselves to making connections with the entire world.
On a more individual level, openness to human diversity plays a role in adjusting to the changes of the future. Similar to the spread of a more global perspective, people are realizing that each one of us throughout this world is different. Although this concept of uniqueness is not really new, its reality has not been as apparent until the recent breakthroughs in technology and communication. People are discovering that even within cultures, individuals come from diverse backgrounds, have different personalities, and prefer different ways of life. In addition, people have become more diverse in their particular values and perspectives as they are introduced to new situations and events. While these differences may create conflicts, they are not always a disadvantage. Instead, diversity makes life more interesting and gives new insights into thinking and living.
Young leaders can build a stronger relationship with their followers as they enhance their own appreciation for human diversity. As people become more diverse, leaders must learn how to communicate with them as individuals if a vision is to be shared, a cohesive group to be formed, and a goal to be achieved. Each follower is important and can contribute something to the mission. Understanding the diversity among followers or potential followers can make a significant impact when trying to make them work together as a team. Despite differences in opinions, the leader and followers can work together to complement each other as they move toward the mission of the group. By exposing themselves to all kinds of situation and communicating with many types of people, young leaders can develop an appreciation of human diversity. Therefore, they are more able to establish trust with and understand new perspectives of their followers.
One other issue, ethics is also a major challenge of the future, particularly because of the changes in human diversity and globalization. Conflicts caused by differences among individuals’ personalities and cultures have created many ethical issues, and the number will only increase in this global society. Taking a stand for one’s beliefs can be a problem, especially when a culture or individual has different values and shows strong opposition to what others believe.
Leaders may have an especially difficult time facing ethical issues as they inspire followers to their mission. Throughout their leadership, they must be firm in their code of ethics, but they must also be aware of various cultural and individual differences. Although preparation is impossible in some situations, young leaders should recognize early in their life what differences make them uncomfortable and learn as much about them and their implications as possible. One of the best ways for leaders to begin dealing with ethical dilemmas is to examine continuously their own judgments and to practice negotiation skills with others who have different values. Practicing in this manner shows others that the leader is willing to listen to others and will cooperate in spite of differences. Therefore, leaders can build support among their peers and develop more effective relationships.
Globalization, human diversity, and ethical issues can be challenging for leaders as they prepare for the next twenty years and beyond. The changing world calls for leaders who will react openly to the introduction of new cultural identities and diversities and who will face ethical issues responsibly. Developing a leadership style in response to global awareness, diversity, and ethics will give young leaders an edge as they build relationships with people from all over the world. In addition, understanding what it takes to prepare for these new aspects of leadership, young leaders will be able to maximize their potential as they carry the world into the future.
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