To succeed as a 21st century leader you must be able to make decisions; decisions that not only concern your employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA's), but more importantly your individual KSA’s.

Read through the following statements and be truthful with yourself as you respond either yes or no to each:

  1. In the past year I have taken classes or attended training sessions to improve my understanding of overall business principles.
  2. In the past year I have read at least five (5) books related to helping me improve my leaderships skills, communication skills and/or “people skills.”
  3. I believe ongoing education in both technical and soft skills is critical not only to my growth, but to the growth of my employees regardless of title or position.
  4. I believe that education for leaders is a never-ending process.
  5. I am committed to educating ALL of my employees on the new things I am learning.

planIf you said no to any of the above statements, you are not unique. In fact, it is my belief that many leaders continue to fall victim to organizational apathy, as David Byrd, president of Leadership Management Inc. states in his book, The Tripping Point in Leadership

Byrd defines the term organizational apathy as “the natural human instinct that consistently encourages us to seek a comfort zone where nothing ever changes.” It is important to understand that Byrd is not using the term apathy in the traditional sense of indifference. The point he makes is that it is easy for many of us to seek security and comfort (regardless of the long term effects) and that fear of change is what drives the apathetic or comfort zone behavior.

As a leader, you must work hard to clear the hurdles of organizational apathy by actively re-thinking and re-organizing your actions and your thoughts regarding self-development and improvement. Keep in mind effective leadership is a behavior, not a position. Great leaders are not necessarily born as such, but they can learn and develop great leadership behaviors.

Leaders who put off their own professional development will face continuing struggles that could eventually have devastating effects on their businesses. The 21st century business world requires leaders to be smarter, more creative, more resourceful and more willing to learn than ever before.

If you responded no to even one of the five questions, you need to develop an accountability action plan. There are numerous tools available for individual leadership development including:

  • Executive coaching
  • Taking an assessment instrument
  • Conducting a 360-degree feedback program
  • Formal/informal training programs
  • Participation in industry/trade organizations
  • Utilizing a self-directed leadership scorecard.

The systematic development of your individual leadership skills is a fundamental requirement for long-term organizational success. Keep in mind that leadership has been defined in many ways by many experts, but the reality is that leadership is a process that has a beginning, but should not have an end. Your ability to determine direction and to influence others toward a goal or mission is directly in proportion to your knowledge, skills and abilities. 

Why not commit today to work toward becoming the very best 21st century leader that you can be?

Scott Tackett joined VMA with a 32-year background in manufacturing, human resource management and organizational leadership. He is currently a business development advisor for Violand Management Associates (VMA) where he works closely with business owners and their key management staff as both a business consultant and an executive coach. To learn more about VMA’s services and programs visit or call (330) 966-0700.