Leadership Across Time:
Navigating the Past and the Present

Leadership has evolved over time, shaped by various factors such as societal changes, technological advancements, and shifts in values and priorities. The traditional hierarchical and authoritative leadership style, often associated with the “old” model of leadership, is being challenged by a more collaborative and inclusive approach, which characterizes the “new” model of leadership. The implications of these changes, especially in light of pressing issues like climate change and the #MeToo movement, have significant impacts on leadership and executive search practices.

  1. Climate Change and Leadership Implications: The challenge of addressing climate change requires leaders to adopt a more forward-thinking and sustainable approach. Traditional leaders might prioritize short-term profits at the expense of long-term environmental concerns. In contrast, the new model of leadership emphasizes responsible stewardship of resources, corporate social responsibility, and sustainable practices. Future leaders need to be knowledgeable about environmental issues, open to innovation, and capable of inspiring change not only within their organizations but also in society at large.
  2. #MeToo Movement and Leadership Implications: The #MeToo movement has exposed the prevalence of sexual harassment and discrimination, necessitating a shift in leadership dynamics. Old-style leadership might perpetuate a culture of silence and power imbalances that enable such behavior. The new leadership model focuses on fostering safe and inclusive environments where all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Leaders are expected to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, actively address misconduct, and create structures that empower marginalized voices.
  3. Implications in Executive search: Executive search practices are directly influenced by changing leadership models and societal priorities. Organizations are increasingly valuing candidates who possess not only technical skills but also emotional intelligence, adaptability, and a commitment to ethical and social responsibilities. When recruiting for leadership roles, companies are seeking individuals who can navigate complexity, lead diverse teams, and drive positive change.

Incorporating these considerations into executive search processes might involve:

  • Behavioral Interviews: Candidates are asked to provide examples of how they’ve demonstrated collaborative, inclusive, and environmentally conscious leadership in their previous roles.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Assessments: Organizations may assess a candidate’s understanding of diversity and inclusion issues, as well as their track record in promoting inclusive environments.
  • Values Alignment: Recruiters are focusing on candidates whose personal values align with the organization’s commitment to sustainability and ethical behavior.
  • Scenario-Based Testing: Candidates might be presented with hypothetical scenarios related to climate change or workplace harassment to evaluate their decision-making and leadership approaches.
  • Development Programs: Companies may invest in leadership development programs that emphasize the skills and qualities needed to navigate challenges posed by climate change and social movements.

In conclusion, the changing landscape of leadership, driven by factors like climate change and the #MeToo movement, is shaping how organizations approach leadership and executive search. The future of leadership will require individuals who can balance business goals with social and environmental responsibilities, foster inclusive cultures, and navigate complex ethical dilemmas. Consequently, executive search strategies are adapting to identify and nurture leaders who can effectively lead in this evolving landscape.

Written by Renate van der Zijl, regional director Groningen-Drenthe at BeljonWesterterp, CFR Global Executive Search The Netherlands.
Photo source: Freepik

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