Close this search box.
Close this search box.

What Is Effective Leadership Today?

A new study finds collaboration prized over heroics.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) conducted research with over 350 mid- to upper-level managers across the globe to explore the current and future states of leadership. According to 84.3 percent of leaders studied, the definition of effective leadership has changed in the last five years.

Future leaders must focus on collaboration over heroics, thereby extending leadership throughout the organization. Collaborative skills such as building and mending relationships, participative management and change management are becoming increasingly important to success now and in the future.

This shift is partially due to two factors. First, the nature of the challenges facing organizations is changing. Ninety-three percent of the leaders surveyed say today’s challenges have greater strategic impact, go beyond individual leadership capability (e.g., require working across boundaries) and render tried-and true solutions ineffective.

So, what can you do to prepare your leaders for a more complex and collaborative future? Here are three ideas:

Become an architect of leadership.

How can you design systems and structures to cultivate new leadership approaches? The leaders surveyed by CCL believe an optimal reward system would include a balance of individual performance and collaboration, innovation and long term thinking.

The Gore Company is a nice example of this approach. Gore insists 10 to 15 percent of employees’ time is spent on speculative ideas. The recognition of innovation as a core competency has resulted in Gore moving beyond Gortex to hold a significant share in dental floss and other markets.


Make an example of positive disobedience.

Which of your leaders breaks the rules, builds relationships and gets results? There are leaders within your organizations who have been honing the skills of collaboration, innovation and relationship building for decades. These leaders live beyond our organizational norms but still manage to succeed.

Consider these opposing examples.At age 19, Shawn Fanning turned the record industry upside down from a dorm room in Boston. His goal was simple and his approach was positively disobedient. Fanning’s company eventually became known as Napster, and he overhauled the music industry by paving the way for iTunes and countless other online music services to succeed. However, he was treated as a sinner instead of a saint.

Still, there are a few positive disobedient leaders who are being embraced from the onset. Just ask Burger King. In 2004, the company hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky to turn their brand upside down with a Subservient Chicken website that has totaled over 385 million hits since its launch, with visitors spending an average of six minutes or more on the site (an unheard of statistic).

Turn real challenges into learning gold.

Is action learning a part of your leadership development strategy? Few organizations have adopted action learning the way the Army has. On the website, past, present and future Army commanders are engaged in an ongoing conversation about how to build and lead combat teams. With over 7,000 members, the ability to share in real time and learn from real challenges and lessons of experience is unmatched. This form of action learning not only improves results but creates a stronger community in the process.

The era of the “heroic” leader, a leader who walks in and takes up all the space in the room, is gone. Leaders now create space for other people to innovate, work across boundaries and prepare for the complex challenges that lie ahead.

 Dr. André Martin (martina@leaders. is a senior researcher, writer and trainer for the Center for Creative Leadership.



  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.