What Kind Of Leaders Will Best Serve The World In Our VUCA 21st Century?

Purpose, Vision and Aims

The purpose of this manifesto is to inspire worldwide cooperation towards this vision:

Leadership understood, taught, practised and continually evolving around the world as a generative process unlocking humanity’s highest potentials, benefitting all life.

To support this vision there are five guiding aims:

  1. To introduce a new (old) philosophy of leadership, based on enduring universal principles inspired by the genius of how living systems evolve, adapt and thrive, whereby: the evolutionary purpose of leadership is to contribute to realizing the sustainable flourishing and thrivability of the living systems in which such activity is embedded.
  2. To integrate, sharpen and simplify our thinking around the practice of leadership and the ways we grow leaders. And to shift our thinking from the unhealthy reliance on an individual leader to the healthy resilience of intelligent distributed leadership.
  3. To make leadership education available to everyone, especially those who want to live self-directed, purposeful, fulfilling lives for themselves and others.
  4. To introduce clear Global Leadership Standards to serve as guiding principles for leaders and those who teach them, adaptable to any specific purpose or context.
  5. To create a new independent, privately funded, not-for-profit educational organisation to oversee and support the teaching, development and application of said standards worldwide.

The Need and Opportunity

Diversity of leadership perspectives is important.  However, as the number of leadership models, philosophies and styles has mushroomed over the last 100 years, the essentials of effective, inspiring leadership have become obscured, contributing to diluting its effects, limiting outcomes and reducing impact.

Meanwhile, our 21st century world is mired in serious, complex problems and is crying out for new solutions.

Thus, it is time to clear the fog from the vast landscape of leadership theory, education, and practice, to reveal the essence of the kind of leadership that will best serve the world in this crucial 21st century.

This call for global rethinking is not new, but now we must quicken our efforts given the gravity of the challenges facing us.

Seven Principles of a 21st Century Philosophy of Leadership

I. Aim –the purpose of leadership is to contribute to realizing a sustainable flourishing world.

II. Definition – leadership is a creative, flexible, dynamic process with four dimensions:

  • purpose and direction – leadership inspires self and others to combine and work towards a clear, common, motivating and meaningful aim;
  • quality of process – it addresses mindfulness of means, pace and quality of journey towards the shared aim, flexibly adapting to changing conditions, new insights, and fresh ideas;
  • group unity – itcreates and upholds group unity, shared values and an enabling culture;
  • individual effectiveness – it remembers that although group unity is essential, each of us are individuals and thus respects and recognises our differences, ensuring engagement and personal growth, and evoking greater self-awareness, self-responsibility, and self-leadership.

III. Shared Leadership – leadership, being a process, is more than the individual leader, meaning that anyone in a group can contribute to leadership.  In fact, we must share leadership if we are to ensure wise, inclusive aims and full engagement, uphold participatory equitable principles, and ultimately, wisely evolve.

IV. Stakeholder Integration – leadership decisions must consider the likely effects on all stakeholders, avoid false trade-offs that might lead to negative results, and always strive to benefit all stakeholders.

V. Open, Balanced Synergy-Seeking – leadership must be open to different perspectives, experience, skills and ideas, inside and outside our immediate environment, and create win-win solutions that balance long-term and short-term considerations not only for human life, but all life on this planet.  

VI. Measure Everything That Matters – leadership should ensure enduring positive impact in all forms of “capital” that help life to flourish, such as Economic, Environmental, Social, Experiential (physical and emotional), Intellectual, Cultural, Spiritual and Manufactured (built environment, technology, etc.).

VII. Simplicity Beyond Complexity – when creating solutions, even for complex problems, we should always consider this question: can we make this simpler and achieve the same (or better) outcome(s)?

Potential Outcomes and Benefits Include…

Outcomes Benefits
Improved clarity on what leadership is, what it should be in the 21st century, and how best to learn how to lead.:Better understanding of leadership. Increased trust and confidence in the aims and effectiveness of leadership. More people wanting to learn and practice leadership.  
Leadership taught in all schools and organisations worldwide, based on global leadership standards, adaptable for any specific context and purpose.:Significantly more individuals (and by extension, more organisations, communities and nations) become self-directed, purposeful, productive and fulfilled. More skilled, authentic, servant leaders benefitting all life.
Our individual and collective potential and enthusiasm is allowed to flow.:Better cooperation; less underemployment; higher worker fulfilment; fairer distribution of wealth; increased wellbeing; more sustainable socio-cultural economic, political and environmental solutions.

Commitments to Begin the Process…

  • Set up an independent, privately funded, not-for-profit worldwide educational body. Its aim will be to promote and advance leadership education and practice worldwide. Its role will be to act as a central administrative hub for resources, research, partnerships, and support. It will be a long-term commitment from the outset. It could be formed as an independent arm of an existing educational organisation. This body’s strategic advisory board, the Global Leadership Standards Council, will be globally representative, majority non-executive, and voted in by open election.
  • This new educational body will collaborate with its partners to develop, implement, and support, a framework of practical coherent global standards for leadership education, training, practice, assessment, and continuing development.

Standing On the Shoulders of Giants from Aristotle Onwards…

More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle spoke of “the good life”, of flourishing by living well and doing well – an idea represented by the character-rich, larger-than-self-ideal the Ancient Greeks called Areté, which was synonymous with virtue, excellence, valour, and striving to be all you can be (or choose to be…), especially in service of something larger than self.  

These elevating qualities – also expressed in other ancient wisdom traditions – can underpin how we learn, teach, grow and wisely apply leadership in the service of us all, and indeed the enduring wellbeing of all life.

The author gratefully acknowledges standing on the shoulders of giants from history and is also indebted to the many inspiring individuals in the present who generously shared their thoughts on early drafts of this manifesto.  

A Call to Action

Feel free to share this Manifesto with others and take the opportunity to adapt it as you wish, as befits your purpose, context and calling…

Now is our time to lead together!

For more information and opportunities to get involved please email Contact@WholeWealth.com