5 Characteristics of an Effective Leader in the 21st Century - Certified Professional Manager
As the world constantly evolves, leaders must always improve themselves. Read these 5 characteristics to become an effective leader in the 21st century.
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-1441,single-format-standard,qode-quick-links-1.0,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,no_animation_on_touch,qode-title-hidden,qode_grid_1300,qode-theme-ver-13.4,qode-theme-bridge,disabled_footer_top,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.7,vc_responsive

5 Characteristics of an Effective Leader in the 21st Century

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
John C. Maxwell

It’s easy to feel inspired after reading one of John Maxwell’s leadership quotes. But what’s more important is what we do after.

Behind every great accomplishment in this changing world is a leader – whether it’s a leader of an organization, a leader of a country, or even self-leadership.

But as the world changes, the requirements of an effective leader also changes too. What worked in the past, may or may not applicable at present.

What exactly are the characteristics of an effective leader in the 21st century?

Regardless of leadership style, these 5 leadership traits will propel your vision, team or company forward in any century.

Leadership Trait #1: Openness to change and never stop learning


Being open to change is one of the most important qualities of an effective leader. Since people’s needs will always change, a leader must always be open to adapt. He or she must be open to learn and adjust to new ideas, mindsets and skills. Without change there is no growth. But a good leader must possess the discernment on balancing tried and tested ideas of the past, while exploring new ways of doing things. As Peter Drucker said, “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

China’s most successful businessman, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, is no stranger to failures and adapting to for the future.

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma (YouTube)

Ma believes that being open to change and adapting for the future is critical to success. In his talk at Hong Kong University, he believes that we need change the education system.

The best university in the world will still face the same challenges. For the past 200 years, schools have taught our children skills that machines can do better now.

In the past 20 years, we made people like machines. In the next 20 years, machines will look like people. But machines will never replace humans. Machines are made of chips but humans have the heart.

In the future, our world will not be knowledge-driven nor manufacturing-driven. It will be wisdom-driven, experience-driven, and creativity-driven.

So to prepare ourselves for the future, we must be open to change, keep learning, and adapt.

Leadership Trait #2: Servant Leadership Mindset


Servant leadership separates a good leader from a great one.


Always put your team’s objectives and members above your own interests. Otherwise, this would be the start of a disaster.

Also, lead by example. If you want your team to value punctuality, be at the meeting before everyone else. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

Despite all your accomplishments, don’t forget to keep your feet planted on the ground.

People like people who possess an air of approachability and friendliness. Don’t look at your employees or teammates, reach out and empower them. Remember that you’re there to serve, not to dictate and coerce.

Human Nature co-founder and CEO Dylan Wilk is a true servant leader. Wilk was already a successful businessman in the London before he co-founded Human Nature. He became a social entrepreneur after his first experiences with Gawad Kalinga. He found real happiness in empowering the less fortunate to pull themselves out of poverty. He was so touched that he left his millionaire lifestyle in London and moved to the Philippines.

Human Nature Co-Founder and CEO Dylan Wilk (National Volunteer and Philanthropy Center)

Wilk says that giving jobs to the poor is not enough be a Social Enterprise. “We must respect their dignity as workers,” Wilk says. He takes full responsibility of his staff’s career, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual growth.

So Human Nature has a “No Firing Policy.” The company does not fire any staff, under any circumstance. He believes that the staff’s mistakes are the Management’s failures in skills training and values formation.

One of his employees was caught stealing. An ordinary company would have fired him on the spot. But Wilk approached this employee and asked him why he stole. The employee said that his family was cash strapped and he needed to feed his kids. “You are better than this. You made a mistake. You are a good person in bad circumstances.” Wilk said. He offered to mentor his employee on personal finance. In return, this employee returned what he stole and became one his most productive and loyal staff.

In the video below, Wilk shares his story on how he found real happiness through social entrepreneurship and servant leadership.

Leadership Trait #3: Be a generous mentor


As a team leader, you are responsible for developing your member’s leadership skills. You may have all the knowledge and good leadership skills in the world, but if you don’t share it with people you work with, it won’t do your organization or business any good. Generosity of skill and knowledge is both inspiring and motivational. Also, if you share what you know, it will save your colleagues the time and effort to learn by themselves. It also increases their respect for you.

So pay it forward, like motivational speaker Robin Sharma. In the video below, Sharma shares 5 lessons that he learned from his mentors.

1. Run your own race. You have no competition if you are in your own division. Stop comparing yourself with others. Instead, stay true to your own ambitions, vision, goals, and values.

2. Be willing to be eccentric. If you want to rise to the top, you have to think and act different. Every great leader and bold genius was misunderstood. So you can either stand out or be like the rest of the 95%, not both.

3. Stand for world-class. Genius is less about inherent genetics and much more about your daily habits. If you want to live your best life or make history, raise your standards in what you believe and how you live your life.

4. Be deep, not light. People value you more when you “go the extra mile.” It’s best to be a master at one thin than to be an amateur at everything. It’s also best to have a few deep friendships than many superficial ones.

5. Be kind. At the end of the day, what matters most is what kind person you are. You can’t take your career to your grave.


Leadership Trait #4: Empowering and developing spirit


Make your team members feel that they can be leaders, too! Give them the confidence that they need and guide them on how they can develop themselves better. A team of leaders pulling a team up will accomplish more (assuming they also know how to be followers when the situation needs it).

Google is world-famous for its employee-first company culture. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page believe that taking care of your employee’s well-being, will grow your company in the long-run. It optimizes (not maximize) productivity, while lowering employee turnover. In turn, happy and fulfilled employees leads to more productivity and a growing business.


Google’s productive, friendly, and employee-first company culture has always been a key ingredient to their success. Aside, from serving free meals, lounges, and gyms, they foster each Googler’s (employee) physical, mental, and spiritual potential. Googlers are encouraged to pursue their own personal projects. They are allowed to fail because the journey is just as important as the destination. They are also encouraged to meet other Googlers from other departments because this develops comradery and keeps their creative juices flowing.


Leadership Trait #5: Be true to yourself


Embrace who you are, while at the same time being open to development and improvement. People respond to sincerity and a genuine nature. Don’t be ashamed of things like your cultural heritage or educational attainment.


Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was always proud of who was and what he stood for. His values spilled over into Apple’s DNA: brand and company culture.

When Jobs was removed in the 1990s, the company was floundering because it lost its soul. Without Steve Jobs, Apple focused too much on producing their computer’s bells and whistles, not their value to the customer. When they forgot who they were, not customers became confused and chose the competition instead.

When Steve Jobs returned, he immediately reminded everyone what Apple and he stood for: innovation, simplicity, and challenging the status quo. Apple struggled for so long because they failed to communicate their values to their customers, making their computers a commodity.

In the video below, Jobs reminded all his staff and customers what Apple believes in: Think Different.

By “thinking different,” the whole company worked together to forever radically change three industries: Music (iPod and iTunes), Telecommunications (iPhone), and Entertainment (iPad, Macbooks).

So be proud of who you are! Be the best person that you can be. Your values, vices, and beliefs will determine your company’s and team’s future.

If you’re already a leader, never stop developing your skills.

If you want to learn how to be one, there are a lot of leadership training seminars all over the world that can help you in developing leadership skills. First things first though, you have to believe in yourself!

Unleash your full potential by taking Certified Professional Manager (CPM)’s leadership training seminars. Here, you will learn practical and inspiring ways to improve your leadership skills.

Through our business seminars, we can help you start that business you’ve been dreaming about for a long time, or get that promotion that you’ve been aiming for.

Visit CPM’s next leadership training seminar schedule for more info.

The CPM Mini MBA program is organized by DMKompass Inc.

Feature Image: 3WestClub.com

Harvard Business Review. “The 4 Kinds of Leaders Who Create the Future.”
Harvard Business Review. “The New 21st Century Leaders.”
Psychology Today
Leadership Thoughts

No Comments

Post A Comment