All great leaders have had one characteristic in common: The willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership. John Kenneth Galbraith
Much is being taught about the essentials of leadership, including who is capable of becoming a leader, how leadership can and should be developed, and perhaps most importantly, how any individual can create, develop, and improve leadership skills within himself, or within herself. In the 21st century, leadership itself has become not only a skill to be developed, but also an attribute already available within any individual to tap into improving not only personal results, but also to influence people, environments and societies around us with an effort to raise awareness and create constantly improved results, triggered through positive actions and efforts made by, and achieved through, collectively enhanced performance leading to the development of higher consciousness, and enabling higher learning.
On an individual level, the six most important leadership skills in the 21st century are metacognition, media criticism, time management, information management, social skills, debating as well as argumentation and/or reasoning.
1. Metacognition as a core leadership skill
Metacognitive skills are helpful for any individual and/or leader in the adaptation to new environments simultaneously with a digital world and culture demanding efforts in the usage of information and communications techniques in leadership development, higher education, continuous learning and organizational development.
2. Media criticism as a core leadership skill
Media criticism, and the capability of being objective in regard with any media, has become more important than ever. Any individual, and leader, must know how to stay objective in terms of media. This is especially true in the 21st century, where media creation and distribution has been made easily accessible to almost everyone with the explosion of various online media tools and platforms. Media criticism requires for a leader not only to be selective about what he/she reads online, but also what he/she personally shares to other people. It is also about understanding how to filter relevant, reliable and valid knowledge shared through various sources of media. It is worthwhile keeping in mind that all media is being created by individuals whose main purpose is to influence other people through their media presentations, regardless of the type of media.
3. Time Management as a core leadership skill
We have all been given the gift of life upon Earth, wherefore personal time management is one of our most important leadership skills. Time management is essentially not only about managing your professional time on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Time management, in its real meaning, is about realizing your purpose and meaning for being, and for living, this lifetime. Time management is also about understanding what changes you possibly need to integrate into your life holistically in order to make the most out of your time upon Earth. What is your meaning and purpose for being here? If you are investing your personal life time into meaningless activities, make sure to start planning and managing your time in a truly productive way – in a way that supports your personal leadership development and learning, which therefore will also benefit everyone around you.
4. Information Management as a core leadership skill
Are you actually managing information, or is information managing you? This is certainly something worthwhile reflecting upon, no matter how progressive you may regard yourself to be. With an immense increase of information in this digital era, a definitely much-needed leadership skill is the capability of managing information. Are you merely absorbing information, and if, is it the right kind of information, relevant to your personal and/or professional development? And, if you are a creator of information, how much worth do you put upon actually creating, developing, maintaining and sharing information that is of real benefit and relevance to individuals, leaders, people, organizations, and societies?
5. Social skills in core leadership capability
It is not enough to estimate your social skills on a personal level – developing and improving social skills is a matter of continuous work and efforts, including the capability of socializing with individuals and people around you in a fruitful and mutually beneficial way. Social skills do comprise a number of capabilities and attributes, most important of which is general emotional intelligence and the ability of communicating and interacting with all kinds of people who may cross your personal or professional road. Not all roads do lead to a beautiful destination, and it is about your personal leadership capability and social skills to define which choices, and which paths indeed are worth taking, and stepping into.
6. Debate, argumentation and reasoning as core leadership skills
It is worthwhile noticing that debate, argumentation and reasoning are essential parts of overall negotiation skills, and therefore also an integral part of core leadership for any individual, in any kind of personal or professional setting. Argumentation, debate and reasoning are attributes of leaders with a capability of discussing complex issues in a multifaceted way, sometimes even leading to possible conflict situations that can be mastered through an intellectual capability of dealing with, and handling conflicted situations. Although active listening is a major influential factor in the development of leadership, really progressive leaders do possess the quality of intellectual debate, argumentation and reasoning in achieving their goals.