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The concept of leadership in the 21st Century needs to be consistent with the type of society that is emerging. The most significant changes in leadership reflect the transformations that are occurring in society-a society that is evolving from structure of hierarchies, standard answers and predictability, to one that is based on interlocking networks, multiple outcomes, and a comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Of most importance, society will be constantly changing, interactive, interdependent and increasingly complex.

A key challenge in today’s world of constant change is to realize that traditional concepts and methods, while appropriate for current projects that have defined outcomes, are often counterproductive for the kind of transformational capacity building that will be necessary for the future vitality of communities. 21st century leadership will take will require more than just shifting from tasks to processes, or from linear thinking to systemic thinking. It will require rethinking the very nature of the overall leadership experience.

The concept of 21st century community and organizational transformation recognizes that there will be times when traditional leadership ideas are appropriate and times when new leadership ideas will to need to be used.

The following chart compares attributes of traditional leadership and transformative leadership. Each person and group will need to develop the judgment to choose which needs to be emphasized based on each situation and overall long-term goal of the organization and community.

Traditional BuilderMaster Capacity Builder
Short-term situationTakes immediate actionConsiders the long-term effect
Long-term issuePredicts a specific outcome with predetermined accountabilityAnticipates what may emerge using trends and weak signals
Concept of PlanningStrategic planning and linearAdaptive planning and non-linear
Concept of StructureFocuses on standardsEmphasizes alternatives, feedback and networks
Concept of ThinkingFocuses on absolute answers and singular truthsEmphasizes being open to new ideas and choices
FocusConcerned for how action impacts the leaderConcern for how action impacts the situation and others
Use of BrainEmphasizes left brainEmphasizes integration of right and left brain
Emotional AttributesEmphasizes action, being right, strong opinionsEmphasizes patience, caring, openness to new ideas
EthicsConcern for “the” truthConcern for truth(s)
Concept of the individualIndependent and self-sufficientInter-dependent and self-reliant
Concept of othersCompares to one’s existing beliefsEmbraces diversity and openness of thinking

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn at