‘To survive the 21st century, we are going to need a new generation of leaders’ (Warren Bennis 1992). Critically discuss this statement using appropriate theory and relevant examples to support your answer.
The twenty-first century has been a key period in the alteration of the dimensions of managerial and leadership change throughout the business world. A key development within this sector has been ethical leadership; this essay will examine the dimensions of ethical leadership, the disconnections between the role of a manager and the role of a leader, and the necessary capabilities that leaders will need to possess in the present day in order to generate success and prosperity.
The way in which the 21st century is evolving illustrates that the conventional leadership styles and leaders of previous times are inadequate; and the methods used previously would not prove to be copious in the 21st society. This can be seen via the continual expansion of the growth of inequalities which pervades the workplace, threating to devastate the ecosystem that supports human life (Kennet and Heinemann, 2006,1). This is also reflected through the amount of income the UK public earn; with the top 10% earning 40% off all personal income with the other 90% only receiving 60%. The most astonishing figures showing that the top 0.1 receive 4.3% of all income – the highest in the UK since the 1930’s (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009, 2).
This can maintain a damaging effect on the public’s prosperity around the world, and is seen in the ongoing protest movement of ‘Occupy Wall Street’, and previous protests such as the anti-globalisation protests which happened in many cities around the world (Klein, 2011, 3). Much of the motives and reasons behind the development of these protests are due to the ever-expanding gap between the 1 percent and the other 99 (Occupy Wall St, 2012 4). It is clear that the Occupy Wall Street protesters are an extremist group. The “Occupy Wall Street movement says it plans to unleash the power of the 99% on the National Rifle Association” (Piazza, 2012, 5). This evidence supports my view of them being extremists and any information that I use is likely to be biased; this will be taken into consideration when evaluating information published by them.
The way in which Venice rose and fell in the early 14th century is particularly interesting especially when comparing the two epochs. The ’99 percent’ are demonstrating signs of agitation; this could be viewed as a plausible reason for needing a new generation of leaders, as for a large proportion of profit-oriented organisations their key targets have been to increase revenue, lower expenses and raise the profit margin (HR Focus, 1998, 6). This is something that is often viewed as needing to be changed especially “since the 1970s, median pay for executives at the nation’s largest companies has more than quadrupled, even after adjusting for inflation, according to researchers. Over the same period, pay for a typical non-supervisory worker has dropped more than 10%” (Equliar, 2011, 7)
These matters are causing even more aggravation amongst the 99% and could cause the open system and the economy to languish as Karl Marx had predicted previously; whereby the top strata of the society inevitably create such a wide inequality of wealth between citizens that the entire economy suffers. In Warren Bennis’ ‘Leadership in the 21st Century’, Bennis elaborates that it is key that managers adopt a different approach, in order to certify that everything will go accordingly, and to enable business to continue to work efficiently throughout this largely changing era. To quote Slim, who led the British 14th Army during World War II, “Managers are necessary; leaders are essential… Leadership is of the spirit, compounded of personality and vision…Management is of the mind, more a matter of accurate calculation, statistics, methods, timetables, and routine” (Bennis, 1992, p.8). Slim reiterates Bennis’ view well, showing that there is a clear difference between the position of a manager and that of a leader.
The Saratoga Institute surveyed the Fortune 1000 companies, in order to try and gain an insight of the changes in style development we should expect to be seeing. One of the findings showed that the role of the leader is changing, “Eighty-eight percent of the participants indicated that both the nature of leadership and the method for developing leaders had changed. Successful leaders are embracing a ‘people first-activities second’ style” (HR Focus, 1998, 6). They are trusting the staff to achieve as opposed to controlling them. By trusting the employees this shows confidence and respect in the staff, this could boost morale and efficiency within the business (Green, 2012, 9).
Adopting this leadership style at this time could be deemed a necessity as the importance of building trust and loyalty becomes more important in the workplace as this will encourage employee contribution (Biro, 2012, 10), The emergence of generation Y staff requires employers to build stronger relationships to ensure they are content in the workplace (Kane, ,11). This is a positive change for the businesses that intend to use this approach of leading, and this style of leadership is already evident at Apple; “We are organised like a start up. We’re the biggest start up on the planet” – “If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decisions and you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy” (Jobs, 2010, 12). Jobs also mentions how they work as a team and that teamwork requires “trusting others without watching” (Jobs, 2010, 12). This explanation of the situation portrays how this use of distributed leadership is deemed to be successful at Apple, as not only does it give the employees a greater sense of power but it brings the employees together as they become a team, rather than individuals (Spillane, 2005, 13) (Harris, 2008, 14).
It seems that a new generation of leaders is needed for a multitude of reasons. We need new leader to a inspire a change in the economy, to ensure a more prosperous and equal access to wealth; inequalities of wealth are pervasive at present and if an exapansion occurs here then the situation of Venice in the fourteenth century could well occur again. It is, as Bennis and Slim claim, the leader that inspires the change; ‘leadership is of the spirit’ (Bennis 1992, p.8) and therefore leaders become more essential and indispensable in order to endure the twenty first century.
1. Kennet M. and Heinemann V. (2006) ‘Green Economics: setting the scene’, International Journal of Green Economics vol 1 nos 1/2 pp68-102 2. Wilkinson R. and Pickett K. (2009) ‘The Spirit Level’, Penguin, London 3. Naomi Klein. (2011). Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now. Available: http://www.thenation.com/article/163844/occupy-wall-street-most-important-thing-world-now#. Last accessed 16th Dec 2012. 4. Occupy Wall St.