Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Leader


Leadership has transformed from ancient times and progresses totransform. Most remarkable are the leadership changes between thetwentieth and twenty-first centuries. The function of the leaderduring the twentieth century entailed the movement of goods. This iscontrary to the function of the leader of the twenty-first century,involved in moving people. Other changes are apparent in the businesslandscapes, as well as leadership skills used in both centuries. Thepaper aims at expounding on these disparities.

Disparities between business landscapes

The twenty-first era has resulted in a greatly demanding andcompetitive business landscape. Leaders have to create and employexceptional abilities to become triumphant strategic leaders, inorder to compete in the challenging business landscape (Hitt, Haynes&amp Serpa, 2010). For instance, developing and communicating anefficient organizational vision. This means having to fabricate andprogressively build up core abilities, in addition to employingcompetent human capital.

Businesses’ focus during the twentieth century was on attaining afinite objective, of delivering services and goods with the aim ofmaking money (Denning, 2010). In the twenty-first era, business hasan infinite objective. It entails delighting clients. Although theorganization is making money, it is as a result of the contentmentcreated for clients (Denning, 2010). The former century’s objectiveof services and goods delivery is linear, and possible to achieve inwhole. Via the economies of scale, the structure makes it possible todeliver economically. By using outsourcing as well as downsizing,economies progressed despite dropping returns. Rules were enacted,procedures created, systems built and mistakes done away with. Whenmistakes emerged, individuals took the blame and were punished. Apredictable as well as bolstering linear environment was created inthe process, which worked as a closed universe. The customer was anobject of manipulation, instead of an individual whom theorganization creates a relationship with, to purchase services andgoods created by the system. Likewise, personnel were seen as humanresources for mining, using and firing when necessary. The entireprocedure was not innovative, since any important innovation was aperil to the straightforward linear, finite business landscape(Denning, 2010).

However, such a business landscape could merely function in a stablebusiness environment as that of the 1950s and 60s (Denning, 2010).This is because businesses during the time had strong demand, andwere well founded organizations controlling the market, which made iteasy to escape with the manipulation of clients. The twenty-firstcentury has seen a change in the balance of market command amidbuyers and sellers. Currently, unless an organization isconcentrating on pleasing the customer, in addition to availing anunending stream of improved value added and guaranteeing improvedcustomer results, the buyer may and will buy elsewhere (Denning,2010). The organization’s objectives are no longer straightforward,linear or finite, rather intricate and infinite. Progressiveinnovation becomes a prerequisite, in place of a distraction.Businesses operate in a globe of progressive experimenting, todetermine what will work and what will not, as a strategy of addingadvent value to consumers. Mistakes are an important aspect of thelearning procedure on the business environment. Every worker in thebusiness is liable for finding advent manners of adding value anddelighting customers (Denning, 2010).

In order to thrive the twenty-first era, businesses ought to attainstrategic flexibility. In actuality, the relevant level ofrestructuring which happened during the 1990s and progresses to dateis part of the tactic to attain proper flexibility, or market share,which prepares for working in the competitive business landscape(Hitt, 1998). Contrary to the twentieth century, twenty-first erabusinesses are utilizing more contingency workers. This means thatmany workers are working on part-time, contract or temporary basis.It is opposed to the previous century’s permanent and full-timepersonnel. In addition, businesses are starting the management oftheir assets in form of bundles, which makes it simpler toreconfigure the assets at any time. It is apparent in the figure ofspin-offs happening, in the enhancing amount of subsidiaries, as wellas breakups like the trivestiture at AT&ampT (Hitt, 1998). Differentfrom the previous century currently, a triumphant business formsflexible architectures easing progressive redesign. Apart fromstrategic flexibility, most organizations are taking part incooperative approaches, specifically as a way of progressing to theglobal market. Cooperative strategies were not evident in thetwentieth century business landscape, because businesses did not haveto compete as they do now, risks were minimal and so was the need toshare capital. Twenty-first century firms rely on cooperativeapproaches as a manner of accessing knowledge, which is adventtechnology or knowhow about local markets. In addition, firms areable to share risks and capital (Hitt, 1998).

When comparing the centuries business landscape, it is apparent thatorganizational culture has become more relevant compared to strategy.Intrinsic values progress to be superior to extrinsic values forclients and personnel (The Futures Company, 2015). Connectionto other businesses has become the main force driving down expensesand increasing customer commitment. This implies that businessmodels, which were advanced during the twentieth era, came up in aglobe of abundance, yet those of the twenty-first period have tocontend with scarceness. Whereas the twentieth century business wasunlimited and open range, in the present century, it is restrainedand subtle (The Futures Company, 2015). Businesses have beenrestructured as the values linked to work and places of employmentprogressively become questioned. The twentieth era resource-use modelis progressively running up in opposition of supply expenses. Adventmanners of managing and designing business and emerging businessmodels are unavoidable. The corporate conduct towards clients andworkers is progressively under check (The Futures Company,2015). The economic crisis has sharpened the notion that unethical aswell as unsound conduct is an exterior expense, which the public doesnot pay for, as well as if businesses depend on public services, likeroads and schooling they are required to make a fair contribution.In short, the presumption, which managed twentieth century massproduction enterprises, codified by managers or the 50’s and 60’sprofessionals, are not relevant in the twenty-first era (TheFutures Company, 2015).

Differences between leadership skills

Leaders in the twenty-first century are working in anincomprehensible environment, where nothing is certain, due to thequick tempo as well as intricate dynamics (Hodge, 2002). This meansthat managers ought to be greatly visible, and directly communicatewith their personnel. Thus, most twentieth period leadershipapproaches will be ineffective during the unstable twenty-first era.Leaders must adapt fast to the fast altering business landscape.

Leaders of the twentieth period concentrated on command, oppressivemanagement. Management was top-down, as managers commanded theirpersonnel (Herman, 2015). It was expected that the boss had responsesto all issues raised by workers, telling individuals what to do. Theperiod was characterized by stringent rules and there were graveimplications for disobeying the boss. It was presumed that manyemployees were incapable of making decisions individually, hencerequired superiors to guide their decision-making. In most instancesthe leader was an individual that was more educated, experienced, hadmore skills, and had worked for longer, though the authority derivedfrom the position of a boss (Herman, 2015). As business landscape hasbeen evolving, developing from manual to white-collar jobs, theauthoritative leadership system became less effective. This resultedin the adopting of democratic leadership approaches, in thetwenty-first century. However, the changing business environmentmeans that managers have to work closely with their employeesespecially when making decisions hence, the use of participativemanagement. Under participative leadership, managers still makedecisions they are made after consulting with personnel that aredirectly impacted by the decisions (Herman, 2015).

Leadership skills differ in terms of the role leaders’ play withinthe organization. Contrary to twentieth century leadership whereeducation and experience were major skills, in the twenty-firstperiod, leaders ought to have skills required during upheaval.Currently, one of the skills required is management of risks (Barton,Grant &amp Horn, 2012). Risks are both in the market, social andpolitical. Progressively, businesses become political, whichnecessitates different skills from those learned through advancededucation. This means being capable of dealing with society. Althoughbusiness schools are capable of preparing individuals on how tohandle internal problems, current leaders need skills in handlingexternal problems (Barton, Grant &amp Horn, 2012). The currentbusiness landscape increases external crisis due to the volatilebusiness environment. A twenty-first era leader must demonstratediversity and ability to function in a multinational culture. Thetwenty-first leaders ought to ensure their business is sustainabledespite the unpredictable business environment (Lueneburger &ampGoleman, 2010). A sustainability leader should be able to join forcesand persuade others to react to changes as soon as they emerge. Toachieve such success, leaders must be capable of succeeding in theirdelivery of results in addition to having knowledge. Knowledgeensures leaders are capable of tracking social, political andenvironmental metrics affecting business (Kok, 2003). Knowledgeableleaders will help businesses survive in the twenty-first era due totheir ability to share experiences on how to react to businessoperation changes.

The centuries have also seen a separation in the role of leader andmanager. In the former centuries, leaders and managers referred tothe same individual, the boss. This was the individual in charge ofall employees. Currently, participative leadership implies thatindividuals must work in unison, resulting in the creation of teams.The idea of team and leader has been merged to create team leadershipbecoming the subsequent phase from only manager (Herman, 2015). Teamshave to have leaders, and managers manage the teams. Thus, managersand leaders are common in the twenty-first era business operations.Teams make it possible for organizations to work with their personnelwhen making important decisions. The leader has to have the skills ofcoordinating people to meet the objectives of the organization. Theleader as well expresses the needs of their team to management.


There have been changes in how businesses operate amid the twentiethand twenty-first eras. Business landscape is no longer predictablelike it was in the previous century. Rather, there are ever changingtrends, which make it difficult for leaders to use long-establishedskills in leading organizations. For instance, leaders have to adaptnew skills, on risk management and sustainability.


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