The Concept of Leadership Is Changing, Are You Ready?

To say the concept of leadership is changing is an understatement. Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025 and 91% of them say they aspire to be leaders (one study even says 78% of them say they already are "leaders").

It's clear, however, that this version of leadership won't necessarily mean a CEO title or a corner office with an administrative assistant. Studies across the board are showing that this new generation prefers a non-hierarchical leadership style with collaboration and empowerment for all.

So, you might ask, what does leadership mean in this new universe? To get an idea, interviewed several executives, emerging leaders, and leadership "thought leaders" ranging in gender, ethnicity, country, age, industry and experience to ask them: "What is your definition of leadership?"

Bärí A. Williams, Head of Operations North America, Stubhub, @BariAWilliams

"Leadership is a sense of humility, self-awareness, and security that allows you to embrace your subject matter expertise while also eagerly empowering others and feeling good, not threatened by that; knowing when to be a point of escalation, and when and where to harness others' knowledge. Good leaders are also able to say 'I know what I don't know,' and to not feel embarrassed or threatened by that, but instead embracing the opportunity to learn. Leadership is motivating others through empowering them with a larger vision, and connecting their work to that vision."

Rayona Sharpnack, Founder & President, Institute for Gender Partnership, @RayonaSharpnack
"Leadership is not necessarily a function of position, authority or title! Even an entry-level employee can be a great leader. Leadership is determined by 'followership.' People follow leaders who demonstrate stewardship on behalf of a compelling future that the followers care about. When you watch effective leaders you can see that they speak for, listen for and evoke action on behalf of that compelling future. So whether they are malevolent or benevolent, leaders protect and advance everything to ensure the success of that future... the question becomes, what future do you want to have happen as a result of your leadership?"

Falk Bothe, Director Digital Transformation Office, Volkswagen AG, @FalkBothe

"Leadership is the ability to let your followers shine. A true leader has a purpose and can create a strong vision around this, which ignites followers to work for this purpose. Leadership then is the ability to watch from a distance -- including oneself -- and then dive back into the thick of things, to create an intervention or provide advice, room or resources that help the followers and peers to grow and deal with so far unknown challenges. A true leader is adaptive; there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution in leadership situations. Leadership means to be a role model, hone peoples' talents and help them to direct their efforts into the right direction -- to fulfill the purpose, develop and maybe at some point in the future outgrow the current situation and take over leadership responsibility by themselves. In dancing, it is hard for the audience to detect excellent leadership; it's fluent, subtle, empathic, and listening to the follower's every sign. In business this style of leadership inspires people to achieve excellent results, be energized and highly motivated. So, as a leader: are you ready to dance?"

Cindy Gallop, MakeLoveNotPorn, @CindyGallop
"A leader is someone who always puts their people ahead of themselves."

Leigha Mitchell, Developer, Hubba, Contributor, Code Like a Girl, @LeighaNotLeia

"To me leadership means being an advocate within and outside of your team. A leader should be a supportive and empowering teammate who keeps everyone at their best. And yes, they should be considered a teammate. This can involve providing the right tools, giving positive feedback, or giving teammates that tough push that they need at times. It also means being an advocate for your team externally. Standing strong when they need it and ensuring everyone outside of your team is aware of what they are accomplishing. Leadership means being humble, helpful, and when required, a hard-ass."

Greg Satell, Speaker & Innovation Advisor, Author Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Mapping a Disruptive Age, @DigitalTonto

"A leader, as the old saying goes, is one who has followers. Yet there is a significant difference between an effective leader and an ineffective one. An ineffective leader sees followers as subordinates who are, more than anything else, means to an end. An effective leader sees followers as ends in themselves and seeks to help them actualize their potential. A great leader doesn't coerce people to do what he or she wants, but inspires them to want what he or she wants."

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