The hierarchical model simply doesn't work anymore. The craftsman-apprentice model has been replaced by learning organizations, filled with knowledge workers who don't respond to "top down" leadership. Seeking opportunities to lead, young people are unwilling to spend ten years waiting in line. Most important, people are searching for genuine satisfaction and meaning from their work, not just money. For example, Medtronic's 38,000 employees are motivated by the company's mission of "restoring people to full life and health."
In response to these changes, a new generation of leaders is reshaping the best-led global companies. Authentic leaders focused on customers are replacing hierarchical leaders that focus on serving short-term shareholders. Typical of these leaders is Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who recently told the Financial Times, "I don't work for the shareholder. I work for consumers and my customers."
In the 21st century the most successful leaders will focus on sustaining superior performance by aligning people around mission and values and empowering leaders at all levels, while concentrating on serving customers and collaborating throughout the organization.
Please read this blog entry over at HBR. It goes on to describe its views on the four major tasks of the consumer centric leader.
Another great entry by Bill George (@Bill_George)