A time for a different behavior repertoire

If you noticed the global trend of leadership lately, I hope you see subtle dynamic there. There is a new type of global leaders emerging to the spotlight recently. These people have different demeanor, and different style of doing things.

President Joko Widodo from Indonesia is the counter-profile of President SBY. Jokowi speaks in less fascinating way than SBY, appear less ‘intellectual’ then SBY. But he was mainly known for his less-speak-do-more profile. China’s President, Xi Jinping, is also less of man with idea, but more of reticent and self-disciplined businessmen style. In contrast to his predecessors, who mostly display a political charismatic leader profile, Xi appears more as common business person who take care the inside of his business seriously. Barack Obama was impressively popular when he was elected around 2007, and he is now totally in different place.


In the last decade, society had searched for hope through inspiring leaders with words and ideas that can make them believe of hope to pass the crisis, they are seeking for something different now. Today, we see no part of the global economy is really a success story. The US economy has not yet free from their problem, European economy is up to their challenges too. China and Russia, despite their strength, also dealing with problems that come with their growth. Similar situation is happening in other part of the world.

People are asking for more than inspiring leaders. They ask for leaders who give examples, real and visible examples. And this is expanding, including more layers, more types of organizations or communities.

The evolution of people expectation has move from the need of inspiring personalities to exemplary personalities. To be inspiring and to be exemplary is about different set of behavior repertoire.

Inspiring person usually possess popularity among people around him due to his convincing ideas and invigorating influence to those around him. Their behavior features are mostly cognitive influence combined with the right emotional appeal toward other people.

Exemplary profile features similar influencing characteristics, but with notable distinction. It is more on what they have delivered in the past, and their work habit that affect others. In many cases, people with this profile are not good speakers, not really good in explaining their big ideas, and emotionally attractive is not their main feature.

I think the future demand us to revisit, or even redefine how we identify the right people for leadership, and many other important roles. A new behavior repertoire which put much more focus on how people succeed, beyond of just indicating that they have been successful.

Thus, the decisive question in selecting the right person, must not be about what they can do when the environment is provided, but what have they done when support is not always available and resources are not within reach.

For example, a candidate with a good leadership is not someone who can show inspiring idea when given a position to lead, but the one who have done inspiring action when the odds were against him. What they have done must have inspired others to get things done and better; albeit those actions were not formally celebrated in any award achievement, company event, or fast track career program.

In addition, leadership development should be reoriented toward more of delivering examples, and not so much on inspiring communication of ideas and motivation. Academic courses on leadership and general management should be re-oriented, as we need more leaders that are ‘creative crafter’, not just ‘strategy sketcher’, I would say.


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