A Revolution in Leadership

By Linda Alepin and Barbara Key

Leaders and leadership practices are responding to the acceleration of complexity in our world.

Are you a part of this revolution?  If so, where are you on your journey?

This article highlights three current trends in leadership that are part of the revolution.  As you read this article, ask yourself the question, “How have I adopted or am I adopting one or more of these futuristic approaches?

The leadership trends are:

  • Generative/Transformational
  • Conscious
  • Global

Generative/Transformational Leadership

This type of futuristic leader is one who creates contexts for stimulating innovation.  Further, she/he focuses on forming diverse communities of commitment that can operationalize those innovations.

What conversations start people thinking innovatively?

Leaders start conversations about “big hairy audacious goals”.  They encourage the generation of new ideas and creative approaches.  They help people recognize their limiting beliefs and assumptions – their “cultural blindness”.  Once these roadblocks to innovative thinking have been recognized, new visions for the future are formulated based on what people care about.

The conversations around vision and caring are amplified by generating possibilities for moving forward and identifying the first actions to be taken.  The “transformation” part of this approach to leadership is taking new actions aligned with visions and values even under the same old pressures.[1]

Another characteristic of this type of leadership is that, “leadership is occurring at all levels of the organization: affected by the people involved, their situations, and their influences on each other.[2]  Communities of commitment are formed.  These are “groups of like-minded people who are relating to each other in a supportive, direct and conscious way”.[3]  They are committed to achieving shared visions.

Here are a few actions one could take today to be a more generative leader:

  • Ask a co-worker what they care most about at work and in life
  • Discover one stereotype you hold that produces cultural blindness
  • Identify one community of commitment you belong to and your role in it

Conscious Leadership

“We define conscious leadership as standing for living and working more consciously while committing ourselves to be 100% responsible for the impact we have in the world.”[4]

As a conscious leader, one might notice the constant pull to buy new, shiny products and decide to resist this culturally embedded impetus.  One might notice that a person in a meeting has been quiet and ask them to share their thoughts.  One might be aware of people with whom they avoid collaborating.

Jennifer Cohen suggests some ways to be a more conscious leader today:[5]

  • Cultivate self-awareness – be more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and motives
  • Adopt a practice of self-care like meditation – quieting the mind
  • Be intentionalbring intention to everything you do
  • Practice the four agreements by Ruiz
    • Be impeccable with word
    • Take nothing personally
    • Avoid making assumptions
    • Always do your best

Susan Taylor, CEO, Generon International, and Forbes Councils member has suggested some questions that one might ask oneself:

  • Do I want to live the rest of my life playing out yet another variation of contemporary leadership values and actions?
  • Am I willing to test the boundaries of my self-worldview to glimpse a larger, perhaps very different universe of leadership capability?
  • Am I willing to take risks for the possibility of new understanding, knowing there is no money-back guarantee?”

Global Leadership

And now, we overlay “global” on top of these ways of leading.  Until just a few years ago, only multinational companies had to worry about this.  Now, with instantaneous communications and global supply chains, every part of society is becoming more global.

Most authorities agree that a true global leader has a global mindset—“the ability to influence individuals, groups, organizations, and communities that have different intellectual, social and psychological knowledge and experience from your own.”[6]

How diverse is the group that you work with from the standpoint of intellectual, social and psychological knowledge?  How effective are you in leading those who are very different from you?

Stephen Cohen goes on to identify four overall skills of global leaders[7].  They are —

  • Think globally
  • Appreciate cultural diversity, including communication tendencies
  • Build partnerships and alliances
  • Share leadership

So, a global leader thinks about issues from a global perspective whether climate change, violence against women, an equal representative in governing bodies, pay equity, etc.  They make a choice as to whether global or local factors are involved.

A global leader has an appreciation for different cultures and the impact on decisions such as how people from different cultures build trust for one another.[8]  A global leader is an expert in building teams across various cultures and sharing leadership with others in many countries.

Actions to begin to think more as a global leader include:

  • Determining your own basis for granting trust to someone
  • Identifying an area where you want to add your influence at a global level
  • Talking to one person who was born in another culture to discover how they define leadership
  • Examining your thinking – when is it local or global?


Leadership has many facets.  Hopefully, this article has led to more questions than answers.  That, however, is the very nature of leadership.

[1] Strozzi Institute

[2] Evolution of Leadership Theory, Albert S. King

[3] Peter Block

[4] Conscious Leadership Guild, https://www.consciousleadershipguild.org/

[5] 5 Ways to Be a Conscious Leader by Jennifer Cohen

[6] Effective global Leadership Requires a Global Mindset, Stephen L. Cohen

[7]Effective global Leadership Requires a Global Mindset, Stephen L. Cohen

[8] Cultural Dimensions, Collectivism, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, G. Hofstede, Cultures Consequences, 2nd Edition, 2001


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