The Rocky Balboa franchise first came into our lives in 1976. Detroit and Motown both were still churning out hits — cars and records, respectively. Akron was still the tire capital of the world. Rocky gave the world this quote that remains as true today for business as when these words were mumbled by the prizefighter almost 40 years ago: “It’s about how hard you get hit . . . How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
While this quote is still true, much in 21st century leadership is very different than it was just a few years ago. Who will tell you the changes, the secrets to success? Some people have not yet caught on to the changes and others want to keep them secret, like all the ingredients in a recipe.
Elements of Greatness
- Emotional Stamina. The simple truth is you will have many ups and downs as a leader; lots of starts and stops. You have to be mentally prepared. You are relentless in your pursuit of being the best. This takes mental stamina. What is needed to acquire and maintain that stamina may be different for each person. The end result needs to be the same: to acquire mental toughness.
- Align Your Goals with Employee Goals. Notice I said align your goals. I did not say employees need to align themselves with your goals as a leader. In the 1960’s and 1970’s a CEO could dictate hours, job descriptions and even dictate transfers. In our 21st century world, it’s the leader’s job to be aligned with every employee. It is not the employee’s job to be aligned with leadership.
- Communicate a Big Vision. And turn the vision into small tasks. To lead, you need to see the vision, the bigger picture. Then you need to communicate it in a way that gets buy-in from your troops. Implementing your vision will require small tasks. You need to either be willing to do them or find those who are gifted at those small pieces. The challenge for you is to value both: the people who see the bigger picture and those who can implement it.
- Stay Relevant. Twenty-first century leaders need to know how important and how much energy is involved in the successful and ongoing goal to be relevant. An employee’s skills are not current and relevant when you as the leader say they are outdated. They are relevant only when they demonstrate they are relevant. Training to stay relevant is not just an event. Not a Lean Sigma or a Six Sigma event. Training is a process: an ongoing process and it needs to be continuous — even if you are the CEO.
- Be Consistent. Consistency is a huge value. The invisible fence only works for your dog because it is consistent. As soon as it stops working, or works intermittently, it ceases to be an effective tool. McDonald’s is not the best food or the cheapest. It is, however, consistent, whether you purchase it in Paris, France or Paris, Texas.
- Flexibility is Huge. In the 21st century you have to be fluid. It is valuable to know when to adapt your goals and when to hold fast to them. To be light and flexible is a skill you need to identify and implement.
The railroad was king, and then it was not. Newspapers led their market, and then they did not. When I grew up in in Akron, Ohio we were tire capital of the world, and then we were not. The traits of leadership evolve with the sands of time. Follow these six tips to make sure that you are a 21st century leader conducting business in a 21st century manner.
About the Author
Leslie G. Ungar, president of Electric Impulse Communications, Inc., which helps you find your competitive edge. Electric Impulse, Inc. is an idea factory for leaders who want to think and act with a 21st century mindset. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.