Newsletter #455 – Four Keys to Contemporary Leadership

Last week I led a daylong seminar on leadership trends. Briefly we discussed change, technology, social media, worldviews, globalization, economic issues, contemporary spiritualities, the emerging role of neurobiology, and even the arts and design. But the workshop mainly focused on four keys to effective contemporary leadership. These are old keys, pretty basic, but they keep appearing, at least in the leadership publications that I have been reading and in the leaders that I watch.

  1. Character. Competence, commitment and passion are crucial for good leadership but in times of need and crisis we look for leaders with authenticity, clear values, and courage. We want leaders with character, men and women who have shown they can be trusted. Maybe the importance of character has risen because we’ve seen the fall of so many recent leaders. Often these people have allowed character flaws to take root and grow until they pull down the leaders along with their careers, organizations, and reputations.
  1.  Culture. A culture is a way we view and do things. Cultures include agreed-upon guidelines for acceptable behavior, relationships, and standards of right and wrong. Every country and community has its own cultures (more than one) but so does every family, church, business, office, group and university. Football teams have cultures, as do different factions in political parties, denominations and professions. Each of us lives in a variety of cultures like these. In a world of Internet connectivity and greater awareness of global diversity, every effective leader needs cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural relationship skills.
  1. Coaching and Mentoring.  These are old terms (an article in the October 2011 Harvard Business Review prefers words like sponsors and protégés). Whatever terms are used, there is renewed focus on talent development and building into emerging leaders. Most often these involve one-to-one relationships for developing awareness and skills.
  1. Communication. Recent tributes to Steve Jobs laud his creativity, innovation, courage and competence. But how effective would Jobs have been if he had lacked effective communication skills? Consider this: if you can’t communicate clearly can you be an effective leader?

In my seminar last week what should I have added to my list? Why? Please give your comments.


  1. Good list of “C” terms that express contemporary leadership. Another “C” word that comes to mind is catalytic – the ability to encourage and equip others to make right decisions, set grand goals and perform at optimum levels.I’d also suggest convener, one who connects across normal dividing lines and enables them to become a peer learning community.


  2. I believe it is increasingly necessary for evangelical leaders to equip young leaders how to “experience” their relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a balanced R and L Brain way. Our Greek/Roman/Enlightenment heritage has skewed us to the Left/Cognitive/Logical side. We need NOT give that up….just bring balance back. Of course the linchpin here is one cannot pass on what one does not possess! AW Tozer, Richard Foster, Wesleys, Bruce Demarest are good places to start . . . .


  3. Un factor importante, que de manera general los cristianos debemos cultivarlo es la espiritualidad. Entiendo que espiritualidad puede tener muchos matices, sin embargo, la espiritualidad con todos sus matices puede hacernos sensibles a los demás y así forjar nuestro carácter, observar la cultura, desarrollar y mentorear a otros y comunicarnos con ellos.


  4. It would have been best to add, or start with …. being Christ centered. The teachings of the gospel message regarding communication, leadership, etc. must be the foundation upon which any sustainable leadership can thrive. The words of Mosses father in law would be a great beginning for many so called ‘leaders’ of today.


    1. Thank you everybody for taking the time to respond. I agree that I left out some important leadership characteristics that you have pointed out.
      The purpose of the newsletter this week, however, was to summarize some of the leadership trends that I have been reading about lately. In some ways these are old but I see them at least in what I have been reading. I was looking for what leadership writers and leaders are discussing and the four that I listed were the four that I came up with. This is a subjective list, no doubt in part chosen from what I have been interested in lately.


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