Leadership in the 21st Century

Proactive leadership has always been nothing but servant leadership and it all begins with the natural feeling that one always wants to listen, serve and improve the lives of others.

Leadership in the 21st Century

How will visionary governance thrive with modern technology?

“From Gandhi to Mandela, from the American patriot to the Polish shipbuilders, the makers of revolutions have not come from the top.”  - Gary Hamel

Proactive leadership has always been nothing but servant leadership and it all begins with the natural feeling that one always wants to listen, serve and improve the lives of others. This sentiment has grown, in the modern era, to include empowering not just a select few but the entire base of the pyramid.This shift in ambition has only been made possible because of technological developments such as the internet and smartphones, and their emergence as impact multipliers for social good is heartening.

However, there is still considerable work to be done before we pause to rest and celebrate our wins because the consequence of inactivity today is instant irrelevancy. The availability of technology affords us previously impossible opportunities to end all illness, eradicate poverty, be free from hunger and provide unlimited clean energy. But this can only be achieved if our leaders lean on us. The millennials and Generation Z do not care about ownership or politics but they do value access, action and radical transparency. Their rise means passive citizenry is dead and our leaders must lean on them to realize their shared vision.

Democratizing Wisdom

Credit: Eleanor Davis
Leaders see the furthest because they grow giants.

And in the digital era they need to grow them by the millions to see over the horizon and make a dent in the world. The internet has made it possible for our leaders to become the most informed version of themselves not only in the classical quantitative sense but subjectively as well.

Data is a conduit for transparency! It removes middlemen, unites stakeholders, reveals insights and highlights impact.

Fortunately, digital platforms such as DemocracyOS and GovFaces have enabled this exchange to take place as a direct public conversation and unlocked the benefits of a virtual hive mind.

Personalizing Engagement

Credit: Eleanor Davis
“Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” - Cedric Price

The question for leaders this century is: How do I engage with every single person in a completely unique fashion?

Scaling up has always been technology’s killer feature and with 8.5 billion humans expected by 2030, democracy will become our greatest experiment. Already e-governance apps, whistleblower websites, municipal helplines and smart cities have emerged to deliver on the promise of personalized civic engagement. These already allow governments to listen at scale, personalize responses, distribute ownership, crowdsource solutions and more. However, by 2030 we should expect governments to use AI to manifest themselves as personal chatbots or concierges and serve each individual uniquely. A good example of this approach is Visabot which uses Facebook Messenger to help immigrants secure a visa and make America great again!

Scaling Leadership

Credit: Eleanor Davis

Proactive leadership has always taken the long view because it frequently provides opportunities of radical disruption allowing nations to leapfrog. This approach needs to be augmented in the digital world of abundance since a zero sum model can no longer be applied to diplomacy, trade and governance. A collaborative approach is more suitable and has already been successfully implemented in nations such as Estonia, India and Singapore.

Estonia: e-Estonia
India: Aadhaar | Swachh Bharat | MyGov
Singapore: One Service

The digitization trend has made the case for mass dehumanization owing to procedural inefficiencies, corruption issues, favoritism, etc. but this directly conflicts our interest to scale leadership across all socioeconomic barriers. We would be far better served by treating our experiments in leadership, governance and civil service as open source efforts so that they hopefully inspire other nations to contribute their own learnings. The United Arab Emirates successfully did this by reviewing the Gross National Happiness experiment of Bhutan and establishing their own Ministry of Happiness.

However, as we attempt to scale leadership we must remember to not give up on our leaders when their experiments fail. Only if we communicate and remain empathetic will their resolve to serve us stay resolute.