The 21st-Century Team Member Is a Leader

It is true leadership — leadership by everyone — chaordic leadership, in, up, around, and down that this world so badly needs, and Industrial Age, dominator management that it so sadly gets.

Dee Hock, founder and CEO emeritus, Visa

The Real Problem

We all want our teams to perform at their very best, but this is particularly challenging in today’s tumultuous world. Amid so much change, especially the shift to remote work, we need to rethink what it means to be a team member in the 21st century. Some still expect a return to normal, but turbulent times may be the new normal. How can we manage with this new reality?

The real problem isn’t our tumultuous world, rapid change, and a global pandemic. The real problem is that we’re accustomed to living and working based on Industrial Age thinking and practices. When everything is changing so quickly, things like command-and-control leadership, managing change, best practices, working harder, or even working smarter are no longer enough. Worse, they keep us stuck in the past.

We have been unknowingly programmed by our parents, schools, society, and the media on how to think, live and work in a world that no longer exists. Today’s ever-changing world requires us to enter into a quest to transform ourselves and learn new ways of living and working together that elevate everyone.

Imagine each of us is being called upon to step into our own leadership — whether or not we are formally in a leadership position. The ideal team member of the 21st century is a leader of one: themselves. It is someone who can lead themselves (and others) in every interaction with another team member, regardless of location or circumstances.

We Strongly Agree

We need to help people see how Industrial Age rules and thinking are limiting us and start living in today’s reality. At the time this article was written, 25 people in my social media and professional network, representing roles from entry-level to the CEO, had responded to my survey for this article.

Fully 100% agree or strongly agree with this statement: In tumultuous times, it’s important for team members to have the ability to lead themselves and others, regardless of location or circumstances (see Table 1).

Table 1. How important is it for team members to lead themselves?

Eighty percent believe it is very feasible or feasible to expect team members to develop or have the ability to lead themselves and others regardless of location or circumstances. Only 8% believe it is not feasible; 12% are neutral (see Table 2).

Table 2. How feasible is it to expect team members to develop or have the ability to lead themselves and others regardless of location or circumstances?