The evolution of leadership in the past decade

The world has often looked to its leaders for motivation in difficult times and guidance for solving complex problems. There have been many charismatic leaders across the world who have inspired millions of people to change the planet for the better.

However, the pace of commercial and technological changes dominating the 21st century has led to dramatic changes in practically every sector.

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The hyperactive global business environment has given rise to a new crop of leaders that believe organisational development lies in the professional development of employees.

To become an effective manager in the modern business world, you should be aware of the evolution of leadership over the years.

Leadership has become more collaborative and people-oriented

Just a few decades back, autocratic leadership was the norm. Remote working was an abstract idea and managers took important decisions with little to no input from their employees. The focus was on getting tasks done under any situation.

Today’s world is shaped by technological and commercial innovations and disruptions. With change being a constant for all business domains, good leadership has evolved to become more flexible and highly adaptable. There has been a marked shift towards a more collaborative style of leadership — employee input is often viewed as integral to decision-making processes and employee engagement is an important principle of human resource management.

The rise of remote working options, especially in present circumstances, has also shaped leadership as we know it. As micromanagement is relatively difficult in remote settings, trust in employees has become a significant tenet of the change in leadership.

Modern leadership is all about empowerment

During the time of the Industrial Revolution, it was erroneously assumed that most employees could not think for themselves. That they needed a leader who had more intellect and understanding to tell them what to do. While this directive style of human resource management was standard, its popularity waned when the nature of work evolved from manual labour to white-collar jobs.

Modern teams are run with a more integrative leadership style. Employee productivity stems from the understanding of the desired results and the availability of the appropriate conditions and resources to get things done.

Modern leaders are often more enablers than managers. They recognise an employee’s strengths and make all the resources available for employees to utilise their strengths for optimal results.

Today’s leaders are active participants

Earlier forms of leadership thrived on work delegation — managerial work was expected to be more about assigning work to different teams and following up on progress.

Even though delegation continues to be an important part of leadership today, modern managers and leaders are much more invested in their teams and companies. They take on additional duties of training and mentorship to guide their teams on important projects and on developing their teams’ skills in turn.

The introduction of a community feeling is also worth mentioning when we discuss the complexity of leadership in recent times. Corporate spaces today consist of small and intimate communities. Strengthened by HR measures like team activities and increased interactions, today’s leaders are professionally and personally closer to their teams.

Technology has made things easier

The constant evolution of technology has impacted all major areas including leadership. Just a few years back, leaders would scramble to be on top of their communications with external and internal stakeholders. Without instant emails and telephones, managers could not view accomplished tasks in real time. They also lost leverage during external negotiations as the news would arrive days after decisions were made.

Modern technology allows leaders to facilitate collaborative work environments and provide their team members with more flexibility to do their jobs. It has also enabled modern managers to rope in additional resources as and when required for completion of big projects.

As the pace of technological and business changes can only be expected to increase in the future, the idea of effective leadership will also continue to evolve. Hence, investing in developing your own leadership skills and understanding of organisational development will be an important part of accelerating your corporate career.

Gisma University of Applied Sciences in Germany offers an MSc Leadership for Digital Transformation which can help you understand the key role of effective leadership from different perspectives.

Contact us to know more

Contact us to know more


– This article was written by Sweha Hazari and edited by Anisa C.

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