21 Undisputed rules for a leader of the 21st century
February 18, 2009
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Working with organisations for the last two decades across the globe, I have derived 21 undisputed qualities of a leader (not a manager). Sharing with community of at least 42 countries I have learnt that leadership is everything (not managerial effectiveness). A leader can be a manager but manager cannot be a leader.

21 qualities are the most powerful tools of a legendary leader.

Leadership is a compounded module of wisdom, knowledge, attitude, values, skills and team.

Leadership is a game of success. Accomplishments and results have a niche both at the organisation and personal life.

Each quality has a brilliant impact in the leader’s life at personal and organisational level. Leader of the 21st century can create ever lasting impression on the community by just following the below listed 21 qualities of leadership. Leaders have to play smartly with such qualities to create an immortal image across the community which he/she had influenced.

21 undisputed rules will shape you to become a legendry leader when you leave this planet. What will you leave behind and how will people remember you? It matters a lot in my perception.

1) Developing people: Leaders’ first priority is to create leaders at all levels. Third line of leadership at all levels is to be developed. Enhancing skills and polishing attitude of the team members are the core priorities of a team leader. Leadership is making people ready to die for you. I am not asking for actual dying but thinking about spirit level. Team members gradually see their future and a bright career in an organization.

2) Innovation: Innovation is a blood in the veins of business. Leader is always in search of canalisation, new ideas, and new roads to travel, new avenues, new styles, new packaging systems, new strategies and value addition. Value addition is an inevitable habit of a leader. Leader should focus on three key words: Adaptable, Acceptable and Applicable. He/She is always looking for better ideas from all levels and who can transfer idea in to reality.

3) Change: Everything is going to change; change is permanent. Leader has to watch market, world, time and people. How change will affect the moral of the team, business and goals. Change resistance is to be handled positively. He/She should focus on deep changes instead of superficial changes.

4) Accepting reality: Reality based actions nurture team members and people around look to the situation with optimistic attitude. Facing reality and accepting reality and finding ways of the reality is the essence of leadership. Fighting unnecessarily with situations is like spending energy against the wall.

5) Clear and simple in communication: Leader is very specific in communication. Clarity is found in all communication along with consistency in ideas. Powerful oratorship and presenting skills are extra advantages to leader. Specification, clarity and up to the point communication cater team very well. Body language of a leader has silent impact in relationship with the organization. A simple message passes faster, a simple product moves easily and simplified communication is easy to understand. Leaders always say no to creative jargons, confusing system and complexity in all aspects.

6) Physical and mental fitness: Sound mind resides in a sound body. Inner balance is a top level priority for a leader. Positive state of mind creates positive environment at work place. Creating and maintaining stress free and creative work place is Key Research Skill (KRS) of leader. Leader with sound sleep, balance diet, meditation habit and clean oxygen in lungs are the inseparable parts of the lifestyle of leader.

7) Focus: Leader is accountable for creating and achieving big picture. He/She ignites the team to transfer the vision in to reality. Leader should lead the team towards specific direction with result-oriented attitude. By entering into minor subjects, a leader breaks down the team spirit. Recession, challenges, cut-throat competition hurt on the morale of the team but during all these phases, leader keeps his/her eyes on the big picture. Minor issues never become major issues and vice-versa.

8 ) Team building and management: Nothing is more important than a team in organization. You become valuable if you keep on adding values to the team. Everyone cannot be a champion in the team but every one can proudly say that he/she is a part of the champions’ team. Team reaches to the pinnacle of success where they have never reached before if they follow the rules of forget & forgive, sacrifice and win, add strength and eliminate weakness, trust, and respect and have integrity in the organization. Leader should be courageous enough to take actions against team player or coach him/her to become the team player.

9) Quality consciousness: Leader can be number one in the market by keeping higher standards of quality. Beating competitor without quality standard is just like moving a boat in the sand. Quality of product will bring customers successfully in the organisation. Our products must give them real value of their money. Quality awareness is not bound up to product but leader should also focus on the Total Quality People.

10) Inside-outside: A leader should possess clear outer perspective and inner extensive knowledge. Internal capabilities will help in mapping new business opportunities and initiate a change in a very critical situation. Competency is also created inside and bringing it outside up to 100 percent is leadership. Leadership is always performance, never position and always regardless of power. Insight is a pre-requisite of a leader and performance is widely associated with inside-outside process.

11) EQ and SQ driven: Leaders emphasize on EQ. EQ+SQ is a highest level of leadership in the organisation. IQ dominant leaders hardly become a role model in the organisation. EQ dominated leaders think with emotions and lead with relationship, which creates major impact in the organisation. SQ centric leadership showcases selflessness, egolessness, humanity and forgiveness in the interpersonal relationship in the organisation.

12) Result: Business is all about getting results. Result is always counted in the organization but I believe that intention behind the efforts have substantial impact in the world. What we are looking is for results but we should look for intention behind the actions also. “Do not focus too much on the results; results are the products of the efforts,” said Sachin Tendulakar, a legendary cricketer, recently.

13) Lead without title: Leadership is always regardless of power. No greed for power, authority, position, Down to earth. Leader does not showcase cap on the head or stars on the sleeve. A comfortable chair along with revolving facility and ordering from that chair is not leadership. Leading without title and creating ever lasting impact in the organization is the essence of leadership. Leadership is performance not position and leadership is demonstration not definition. In practical business terms, it is about creating conditions under which all followers can perform independently and effectively toward a single objective.

14) Lead with example: Harmony between thinking, speaking and doing influence the people who are your followers or peers. Mahatma Gandhi has demonstrated leadership which was commanding respect without any title. Leader should not be lacking in any such phenomena. Igniting people’s mind, sparking the energy, energizing there spirit is only possible by this trait in leader.

15) Values based execution: Principle driven leadership creates permanent impact and influence at the work place and sparks the team mates. The only thing that works is management by values. Find people who are competent and really bright but more importantly, people who care exactly about the same things, you care about values can enable the team and facilitate the team player to perform independently to achieve the common objective.

16) Speed: Speed in the focused direction is the style of leaders of the 21st century. Slow and steady win the race is an old learning. New learning is fast and rightly directed to win the game of life. Small fish or big fish is not a matter at all, what it matters is speed with action. Fast track without ‘U’ turn is a way of leadership. Leaders accelerate speed on the highway of success.

17) Decision maker: Leaders are fast in decision making and executing the same in the organization. Team members are energies, activate and enable to move in to direction faster because of decisions. Decision pending attitude slow down the action, demoralize, deactivate and deviate the team from the main objectives.

18) Risk Management: Every deal is a calculated risk, but you have to know the percentage of risk. Dr. Kline said, “If you do not take risks, the possibility of accomplishing something becomes very less.” Risk taking should be considered as an exciting process. You feel excited and run faster for accomplishment as winning is your goal. Business of business is risk. Hence, leader should be dare enough to take risk.

19) Listener and doer: Leader listens to his/her team players and peers with concentration and transfers his/her body language in an effective listening posture. Un-interruptive listening, taking actions on listening, solving issues after listening, and showing confidence of sharing the views to seniors, add confidence in the team players. Leaders are passionate listeners and follow-up lovers.

20) Technology Savvy: Beware the CEO, who does not love technology. Technology can make actions faster, cheaper and energy saver. Speed of communication or transferring globe in to a small village is only possible because of technology. Leaders desperately love technology.

21) Humoristic: Love the leader who keeps toys in his office. Leaders crack the jokes with their team and make the environment of the work place lighter. Laughing is a medicine and creates positive and stress free work place. Cartoon savvy leaders built up the relationship in the team at all levels. The sense of humour stands at the top priority in the list of qualities of leader. Most of the Corporate have cartoon display board across the globe to keep the environment friendly.

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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