Reinventing Management for the 21st Century

A Failure of Leadership in Management ?

The world is facing unprecedented upheaval and chaos in virtually every sphere of human activity. Where it is economic crisis, climate change, resource depletion, failure of political systems, or the breakdown of the social order, there is only gloom and doom all over us. Hence, the broader question is whether we have had a failure of leadership in the sense that there are no leaders in business or society who are able to show the way and lead us from the front.

The narrower question is why did management thought that was responsible for so many achievements and improvements in material prosperity over the last century or so fail us so miserably. It is these questions that this article and subsequent articles explore to illuminate how a new generation of leaders in business and society emerge and provide us with exemplary leadership that would be known for decades.

Some Trends and how they are going to shape the future

First, the Millennial Generation or those born in the period 1980-1995 have come of age at a time when the world is in crisis. As discussed above, the problems are many but the options are limited. With social, economic, and political transformation, the present generation can again rejuvenate the world of business and chart a new course for humanity. Since this generation came of age when the internet was making its presence felt and are now experiencing the mobile wave, it is safe to say that the emerging generation would have the necessary knowledge and experience in the technologies of the future to make a difference to the world of business. The other trend is that though people are living and working longer, they no longer are loyal to a single organization and instead, are only loyal to their professional identities. For instance, while the norm in the earlier generations was to stick to a job throughout ones working life, now it is considered something of an aberration if people do not change jobs.

Need to Reinvent Leadership and Management

These trends discussed above have led to a fundamental change in the economic logic of the firm. If the earlier management thought was about capital as the scarce resource and the strategic imperative of the firm was to transform inputs into outputs in an efficient manner, now knowledge is the scarce resource and firms succeed not only because of the efficiencies of their processes but also because of creativity and innovation. Hence, these aspects have led to a basic change in the way management and leadership is understood and therefore, there is a compelling case to be made to reinvent management.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, we discussed the positive aspects (reinventing leadership) and the negative aspects (the gloomy situation, as it exists now). For all future leaders, there is a message here: which aspect you chose to be the basis of your worldview would depend on your attitude and your approach to life. If you think that the future is all gloomy, then no amount of persuasion is going to make you change your mind. On the other hand, if you think that the future holds promise, then you can start thinking seriously, about how you can revitalize the field of business and management. The choice is yours.


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