New Century Leaders

What kind of new world leaders should we expect?

Here is one magnifying and surprising solution. I believe we need to teach future business leaders that in our carbon and capital constrained world it is now mission critical to refine all the tools of business to compete on price, quality and social needs. Masters of business administration must also become masters of social needs – from avian and swine flu to energy and environmental matters. I believe this boils down to training to compete for resources and the best minds, while teaching some cultural restraint and leadership skills.

[wcm_restrict]This new century leader must become a Social Response Capitalist, profiting from new forms of energy, new means of mobility, and exceptional and available kinds of information technologies. I want leaders that can produce solutions for multinationals as well as the many key small innovators we need in renewable energy.

Consider the recent rash of corporate and financial abuses, and the sheer ethical stupidity of some strategies and actions.

I am now convinced that businesses that rule by the brute force of technical and terrain advantage alone will slip in their competitive advantage. It takes the grace, force and wit of a diplomat to gain permission to grow. Life as we know it, and society as we expect it, are not possible without such realignment.

I believe the ultimate definition of a trusted new century leader is someone who can embed social values into products in a strategic and consistent way.

I believe that those who can embody these values will thrive in what I call the S-Frontier, where the severity of global markets, and the swiftness of information dominate normal business planning and decision-making.

The leaders we can trust often develop a vivid track-record of achieving such surprising results. Their new products never stray from being efficient, safe, convenient, and affordable.


I now view three prevailing themes of leadership as boundary conditions for achieving success in today’s S-Frontier. Social Response Capitalists need to:

  • Demonstrate a remarkable tolerance for discomforting information, and then thrive on constant learning. These attributes allow them to balance the three competing imperatives of lowering price, improving quality, and responding to emerging social needs. They can sense what the needs of society will be in the near future and quickly adapt corporate strategies in order to engineer new products that can then reshape the market for their goods and services.
  • Achieve power through applied common sense. These social leaders know when to ignore the signals of distress emanating from their own corporate staff and Wall Street. I describe this uncanny ability as “knowing when to play by the rules, and when to change the game,” and a unique combination of panic and resolve. Applied common sense means being open to input from a vast array of sources, but still being smart enough to know how to ignore the sirens screaming all around you about your corporate strategy and do what you know is right.
  • Recognize that their new business models and social goals need wide circulation. Their need for spreading the word often takes on a missionary zeal. Baseball great Yogi Berra once quipped: “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Like plants that disseminate plenty of seeds to ensure survival, social capitalists are on a mission to spread the word about new paths of growth. They are infusing their firm with a new sense of social purpose beyond finance alone, and they want everyone, rightfully, to know about it.

Such is the stuff of the best corporate strategists. They find something fabulous in complexity and challenge, identify and secure the changes that must be made to adapt to the market and the social needs, then share its meanings and value in a visible and highly social set of ways. They apply the newly discovered value in a systematic and relentless way across the company. In a way, social response capitalists are like Archimedes when he said give me a lever large enough and I will move this world. In the end leadership is always about taking the intelligent risks to make the needed lasting and possible.[/wcm_restrict][wcm_nonmember]

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About the Author

Bruce Piasecki is the President and Founder of the AHC Group Inc. (, which since 1981 has provided general management consulting and leadership benchmarking workshops for a range of corporate affiliates and clients. His latest book is The Surprising Solution: Creating Possibility in a Swift and Severe World. To read Bruce’s complete biography, click here.

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