Chapter 4: Leadership, Introduction to 21st century Leadership

Hello Shockers,

Quite excited about this next chapter, as leadership is much talked about and is certainly a vital part of the mix if we are to make big shifts in how businesses behave.

Please do keep the seriously useful feedback flowing and also spread the word.

Thanks – Will



It is quite deliberate that the order of this book puts People before Leadership. In fact, it reflects both a switch from the contemporary sequence of leadership first, people second and a return to Julius Caeser’s long-standing maxim that ‘every soldier has a right to competent command’.

As General Patton put it: “There has been a great deal of talk about loyalty from bottom to top. Loyalty from the top to the bottom is much more important and also much less prevalent. It is this loyalty from the top to the bottom which binds juniors to their seniors with the strength of steel.”

But what defines a ‘competent command’ in today’s environment? And are we at risk of reverting to military models and top down thinking here? Having understood the challenges and opportunities around People, maybe it is clear that this contemporary organisation demands a substantially different type of leadership. This is an approach that will be hugely welcomed by the world, though it will take us all time to adjust and wean ourselves off some of the myths and folklore around leadership.

And is the contemporary leader actually new or is this just a rehashing of principles which have existed for millenia, simply dressed in the emperor’s new clothes? A little ‘realtime’ here, a little ‘networks’ there, but effectively the same as it ever was? I believe it probably is. This probably is a return to the fundamentals of human leadership, but perhaps a necessary recalibration and a shift in emphasis from where we got to in the late 20th century.

The challenge of leadership in the 21st century

The leader in a social business is walking a path that many of her peers before her will not have done. She may not be able to get advice as easily, or support from her stakeholders and investors as immediately.

One important note of caution: there is a great deal of folklore around leadership. Many, many books are published every year on leadership, building on an accepted canon of well-established management wisdom. I do not wish to add to that, and particularly not to the idea that leadership is beyond the many, the preserve of a few ‘special’ destined to become leaders.

So do not be intimidated by what follows.

You already lead, so you must already be a leader – at different times, and in different domains of your work and your life. Nobody does all of this well all of the time. Instead, these are ideas and possibilities about how you can continue to develop as a leader; and one who can help lead in a different world, changing their organisation, their team and themselves. That is all!

Leadership must change

If the behaviour of people in organisations is substantially shifting, then clearly so must leadership shift too. Why should we invest in this shift? Clearly there are the benefits of an unleashed and engaged workforce that were outlined in the previous chapter.

On top of this is a higher order of benefit. Can you imagine a world where leadership had transcended and evolved from the good and bad bits we found in the 20th century? Can you imagine the problems that will be solved in the world through the work of a new generation of leaders, working with purpose and vigour? Can you imagine what it will be like to be part of organisations alive with this kind of leadership? That is the prize, that is the why!

If we can gather and energise a whole generation of progressive leaders, what will the benefits be?

•    More organisations working towards Purposes of Significance, leading to a better world for all (seriously!)
•    Healthier, happier and more meaningful work lives for millions, if not billions
•    Fairer rewards for all participants in business, leading to a more resilient business community and a healthier society
•    Higher standards and demands for leaders in all walks of lives, and a new set of role models to help inspire and lead the way
•    Greater self-leadership in all


How was that? Please provide feedback: via comments on this post, via email to, tweets @willmcinnes #cltrshck.

Next extract: The 7 components of Leadership in a social business – nice and practical (hopefully!).

Thank you for your support through the wind and the rain. Off home for roast lamb now…nice one Mrs.

Tallyho, Will

3 thoughts on “Chapter 4: Leadership, Introduction to 21st century Leadership

  1. How about a little section in this chapter that explicitly lays out what’s wrong with ‘conventional’ leadership today (for example, that much of leadership assumes a balance of power where the leader needs the people less than they need him/her whereas this balance of power is set to change) which then leads on to the benefits of changing leadership, and then the practical stuff in the next section.

  2. Yes, agree with Tom. And I found the “I believe it probably is.” para a bit confusing – are you saying – it is a significant change or it isn’t.

    I think it *is* big shift – away from the military model that has existed for millennia and that has become part of the dominat paradigm. Before that there were perhaps societies that practiced a very different kind of leadership?

    Both models are of course still relevant in different situations. If the building is on fire having someone tell you to get out is probably not a bad idea.

    The trick perhaps is to know which model one inhabits and choose a model (or models) which are appropriate.

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