Leadership in the 21st Century

Essay by saeed123 October 2009

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INTRODUCTIONNew societal conditions are eliciting new forms of leadership necessary to launch and sustain the transitions toward more knowledge-intensive societies. Leadership in the digital age needs new attitudes, new skills, and new knowledge gained through unique professional experiences responsive to the societal features identified earlier.

We must distinguish between two related but different leadership categories. The most inclusive category is "leadership in the digital age," which refers to leadership in any institution or sector embedded in the broader transitions toward a more knowledgeintensive society. All leaders, whether leaders in health, the arts, or manufacturing, must be aware of the new constraints and opportunities that ICTs provide and use them effectively. The second category, "digital leadership," refers to leadership in the core sectors of the knowledge society-the three C's of computing, communications, and content (broadcasting and print and now multimedia). The two categories of leadership are closely related, and many leadership innovations, such as the use of website portals to link customers and suppliers, originated in the core ICT sectors and diffused from there.

Digital leaders can be defined functionally by their contributions to the transition toward a knowledge society. These contributions include awareness building, resource mobilization, operational leadership, and structural leadership. Awareness-building leaders convince sections of the population to attend to the new ICTs as resources that can help them achieve their goals. Resource-mobilizing leaders convince social actors to obtain and deploy valuable resources, whether money or high-level political support, to spread ICTs more widely. Indeed, mobilizing an effective pro-diffusion political coalition is an essential element of digital leadership and in leadership in the digital age more broadly. Pro-diffusion coalitions are societal groups that support legal, regulatory, legislative, organizational, and other changes necessary for the new technologies to diffuse, changes such as greater research and development budgets, ending monopolies in...