Skip to main content
Home World U.S. Weather Business Sports Analysis Politics Law Tech Science Health Entertainment Offbeat Travel Education Specials Autos I-Reports
U.S. News

Today's leaders juggle e-mails, blogs and integrity

Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

(CNN) -- Think about this scenario: A leader misspeaks, the comments are posted on a blog three minutes later, and within an hour media organizations have picked up the comments, reporting them on television and online.

Meanwhile, this leader's BlackBerry buzzes every 30 seconds with bosses, colleagues and family members all wondering the same thing: Did you really say that?

It happens.

Today's leaders are facing challenges their predecessors never knew -- an up-to-the-second era where technology connects us all, where multimillion dollar business deals can be sealed from most any corner of the world and where the BlackBerry and Treo can track you down at any second. It's an information smorgasbord where the demands are ever growing and the pace is frantic.

What does it take to lead amid such an intense environment?

For starters, experts say vision and integrity, along with an ability to adapt, multitask and manage people. Being media savvy also is a plus.

"Leaders have to spin many more plates today than they had to 20 or 30 years ago," D. Michael Lindsay, an assistant sociology professor at Rice University and leadership expert, said.

"That's just the nature in which society grows and develops. As it grows and develops, you have more people to satisfy, more demands on your time, more expectations. It seems that those kinds of elements never go away, they just increase."

'You've got to motivate'

But the best of this new breed of leaders -- in business, politics, technology, health and entertainment -- have been able to adapt to the changes, evolving their styles to meet modern needs, experts say. They've developed qualities and skills that guarantee results among their employees, constituents or customers.

"Integrity has always been important and a vision," said Marshall Goldsmith, a leading executive coach and author of "Global Leadership: The Next Generation."

"But the reality is that will be important a thousand years from today, and would have been important a thousand years ago. The real differentiating variable in leadership today is the fact that leaders today manage knowledge workers."

That applies to not just the business world, but all aspects of leadership, he said. "The role of leadership has changed from the top-down -- 'I'm going to tell you what to do approach' -- to a more asking, listening and participating [approach]."

Included in that, he said, is the ability to share a tangible goal or vision. President John F. Kennedy's push to the moon and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech are shining, historical examples of such goals.

Due to the shift in modern-day leadership, the need for solid visions is all the more important, especially for those in the corporate world.

"You're managing a bunch of smart people," Goldsmith said. "You can't tell them what to do and how to do it, you've got to involve them, you've got to listen, you've got to motivate them."

He added that the most difficult thing is "getting people involved so they own the vision."

"The great achiever: It's about me. The great leader: It's about them," he said.

Always within reach

Leadership has become increasingly difficult in an age of technology, where e-mail, BlackBerries and an array of other gadgets have made it so that officials, executives and managers are never out of reach.

"These people work as hard as McKinsey and Goldman Sachs because they feel under much more pressure than they've ever felt before," Goldsmith said.

Another trend is how 24-hour news media outlets have affected the shape of leadership. "Today, with 24-hour news channels, the actions of leaders are followed very carefully, and scrutinized very quickly by not only average citizens, but talented analysts who can make judgment calls," Lindsay said.

"And this naturally influences what leaders have to do. ... Leaders can cast a much larger shadow over their institution and over society today because media spotlight amplifies that shadow," he said.

While media organizations are often blamed or credited with drawing attention to leadership scandals, Lindsay said, media can just as easily amplify good.

"The media is an excellent tool to getting out positive publicity, just as it's an excellent tool of holding those who commit misdeeds in leadership to accountability," he said.

While not leaders in the traditional sense, some celebrities are masters at this type of media manipulation. "Celebrity status allows [people] to garner a lot of power that in previous generations wasn't a possibility," Lindsay said.

Angelina Jolie -- the famed actress who is also a U.N. goodwill ambassador -- is one such example. She, in part, achieves her goal of raising awareness for the plight of refugees by traveling to poorer areas such as Costa Rica or Namibia. Celebrity photographers follow her there, and she is able to pull attention to these corners of the world that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Those are all key traits -- charisma and passion with an ability to charm the media -- for quality leadership, according to the experts.

An effective modern leader "has to be incredibly focused and dynamic, and really, I believe, pretty intuitive about the needs that are out there," said Georgie Ann Weatherby, a professor in Gonzaga University's sociology department.

"They don't just talk about what needs to be done. They go out and take action."

Follow Related Topics

Search TopicE-mail Alerts

Leadership experts say technology has helped shape modern leaders.



Quick Job Search
  More Options
International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise with Us About Us Contact Us
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
SERVICES » E-mails RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNNtoGo CNN Pipeline
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more