Developing 21st Century Leaders

Developing 21st Century Leaders

As a professional organization, the Logistics Institute develops the whole person, and not just the skills needed to do jobs in supply chain and logistics. The P.Log professional is

  • A leader who transforms organizations as a change agent and builds capabilities in others to implement change;
  • A leader with competitive edge to create customer value, and with competence as a supply chain and logistics practitioner to sustain that value;
  • A leader with the self-confidence to make difficult decisions and accept responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.

To meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we need to approach leadership as a series of building blocks: Values, Aptitude, Complexity, MIND Strengths, Context, and The Organization.

Our foundation is personal leadership, on which we hone our aptitude as leaders and build our capacity to lead. Our capacity to lead enables us to deal with the complexities of leading others. The greatest challenge we face is engaging others from within their individual perspectives – not everyone sees the world the same way; we each have our own unique “mind strengths”.

Recognizing that no one thinks the same way or sees the world in the same ways allows us to lead situationally – applying different leadership skills to the variety of situations we face in context. Bundling this entire leadership nexus, we can lead the organization as professionals and engaged practitioners.

As the Founding President of the Logistics Institute, I have had the privilege of exploring the many dimensions of leadership with professionals, practitioners, academics, seasoned workers and youth entering the workforce for the first time.

I share the wisdom of these fellow sojourners in this series of blogs on Developing 21st Century Leaders. I welcome your reactions and insights.  

 - Victor Deyglio, Founding President, The Logistics Institute


Leadership development doesn't work because it fails to address the totality of who and what we are as human beings. It fails to recognise the profound depths of our inner worlds and the power and responsibility that go with what we think and feel. It fails to respect the causal nature of the mind, whilst mistakenly looking for the levers of change in the outer world of effects. And in its analysis and reduction of the objective brain, it overlooks the realities of the subjective mind.

-- Chris Pearce, Why Leadership Development Is Still Stuck In the Dark Ages, Forbes, 11/19/2018
It is not enough to focus on what a leader is or does. The real challenge is how to lead as a person in the 21st Century. How do we transform ourselves as leaders? What competencies and capabilities do we bring to the world of work?

In his Forbes article, Pearce identifies three steps at the heart of leadership development:
  1. Leaders need to master personal leadership before they lead anyone else
  2. Personal leadership requires Self-Awareness
  3. Self-Awareness is observation of your inner dynamics, in the moment

Personal Leadership is the ability to successfully lead yourself through the events, circumstances, vicissitudes and adversities of life. It is facilitated by: Purpose, Integrity, Clarity, Focus and Energy.

Self-Awareness involves moment-to-moment consciousness of our inner dynamics - our cognitive and feeling worlds, and beyond. It arms us with the ability to take charge of, and accept responsibility for, our emotions, should we choose, and our decisions and actions as we live our lives and do our work.

We begin with self-exploration:

What are our personal values?
How do our values shape our aspirations [i.e., success driven by values not by desires]?
How do our aspirations form our life principles [i.e., ethical foundations]?
How do our ethics lead to our decisions and actions [i.e., leading responsibly]?

Our values are so much an intrinsic part of our lives and behaviour that we are often unaware of them – or, at least, we are unable to think about them clearly and articulately. Yet our values, along with other factors, clearly determine our choices, as can be proved by presenting individuals with equally “reasonable” alternative possibilities and comparing the choices they make. Some will choose one course, others another, and each will feel that his or her election is the rational one.

  1. A personal value system influences a leader/manager’s perceptions.
  2. A personal value system influences a leader/manager’s decisions and solutions to problems.
  3. A personal value system influences the way in which a leader/manager looks at other individuals and groups of individuals; thus, it influences personal relationships.
  4. A personal value system influences the perception of individual and organizational success as well as their achievement.
  5. A personal value system sets the limits for the determination of what is and what is not ethical behavior by a leader/manager.
  6. A personal value system influences the extent to which a leader/manager will accept or will resist organizational pressures.


Are you a leader? Can you prove it? Knowing what to do and when to do it is expected. It doesn’t make you a leader. Being competent is the tip of the iceberg. What floats below takes guts, resolve, ambition, fortitude…it takes aptitude. 

You can learn about leadership. You can sharpen your leadership skills. That is the teachable part of being a leader. But ultimately you need aptitude to lead. Aptitude cannot be taught. It can be nurtured, tested, and validated, but…If you do not already have the aptitude to lead, then you will never be capable of being a leader.

Aptitude rests on three core values –

            Do you believe in yourself?
            Are you convinced you have the capacity to lead?
            Do you even want to lead?
            What does being a leader mean to you?
            Do you trust yourself and your abilities?
            Do you have the strength of character to trust others?
            Do you have the strength of conviction to rely on others?
            How do you handle success?
            How do you handle failure?
            Can you embrace your own vulnerabilities?
            Can you embrace and accept the limitations of others?

You either have these values or you don’t. You cannot learn them from textbooks or courses. You cannot acquire them from outside of who you are. They are who you are. They are your capacity to lead.

Your capacity to lead is about embracing responsibility. Whatever your specific job or profession, you are responsible for the success

  • Of the organization as a whole;
  • Of cross functional process areas [purchasing, transport, distribution];
  • Of business units [procurement department, distribution department, accounting department];
  • Of teams [sourcing team; the IT implementation team];
  • Of ourselves as individual workers and on career paths.

AND you are responsible to

  • Lead the Organization: think strategically and critically; develop strategies; initiate and manage change; develop corporate culture; support strategic projects.
  • Manage the Performance of Cross Functional Process Areas: manage staff performance; manage function performance; manage business performance; manage finances; manage work processes.
  • Manage the Operations of Business Units: manage customer relations; negotiate with suppliers; facilitate meetings; manage projects; manage transactions
  • Develop People on Teams: coach; direct team members; develop team process; engage others; influence others
  • Manage Ourselves as Individuals: manage time; manage work; solve problems; make decisions; think creatively; learn to learn; communicate.


A fully developed and successful leader gives others the opportunity to take responsibility for the totality of who they are, not just a tiny fragment of it.

Leading others is a complex balance of your capacity to lead, the willingness of others to follow you, and the situation you face. Aspiring to motivational leadership is admirable, but we face realities that demand judgments, decisions and actions that are immediate, pragmatic and necessary.

As leaders we must engage the whole person of those whom we lead. However, the goal is to be fair, not just nice, and to treat people equitably, not just equally, because not all people are the same. We must celebrate difference and nurture the value that each person brings to the situation.

As leaders we must recognize that we do not actually “manage people”; that is the fallacy embedded in corporate governance authorities and reporting structures. Nor can we manage or even expect to change human behavior; that is the fallacy embedded in codes of conduct, codes of ethics, codes of corporate social responsibility, and even standard operating procedures, among so many other codes that authorities conceive of.

Individuals, even the most loyal and committed, will always find ways to “go around” the rules and cope with the mechanisms. Humans are ingenious and creative that way. Yet, given any situation, humans also crave clarity – of intent, purpose, process, expectation, with established objectives and goals:

  • What do you want me to do? What am I getting into?
  • Why should I do it? What’s the point? Is there a purpose to this?
  • Who else is doing this? What are their strengths?
  • How do you want me to do it? Why should I do it that way?
  • Is there a better way? An alternate way? Or only one way?
  • How do I know we reached the goal we set out for?
  • Where is the end point? When do we stop?
  • What does success look like?

All too often, we work with assumptions: we assume

  • that people automatically know what to do and how to do it;
  • that they understand what we are saying and the directions we give;
  • that they remember what needs to be done and how to do it after trying it only once;
  • that each situation is the same and subject to plug and play actions without forethought or plan or other considerations.

We rarely examine our assumptions. We presume that all working situations align to standard procedures, and all people act and react in the same ways. That is the lie behind all management theory. Despite our best efforts to rationalize, organize, categorize, standardize, optimize, operationalize, compartmentalize, and strategize, we fail to recognize that reality is both complex and random. To put “leading others” into perspective, a new born baby does not come with a user’s manual.

Complexity is natural, as natural as a new born child. Complications arise when we fail to recognize the inherent complexity of the business we engage in and the people we lead. There are no simple solutions. There are many options and different strategies to be implemented, depending on the situation and the people we engage with. Whatever the plan, reality is unpredictable. Being prepared for the “what if” is about managing risk and being resilient.


CHALLENGE: As leaders, how prepared are we to learn from outliers? I am not simply talking about those who “think outside the box”. I am referring to those who are not, and never will be, in the box at all. Beyond the fringe as we happily define it.

And what if we discover that there is no box at all? Speaking oxymoronically, would chaos then be “normative”? Whoa! That would upset every sense of normal, challenge all our rationalizations, and question the time-honored assumptions about what is acceptable and what is not.

Yes, reality is complex at heart and random as the wind. And if we believe that leadership is an invitation to greatness that we extend to others, then do we have the Mind Strength to lead?

CONTEXT: my insights are drawn from the analysis of true outliers as presented in the book The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain, by B.L Eide and F.F.Eide [first published in 2011 and reprinted as a paperback in 2012]. The book is challenging and not easy to read, but the ideas are insightful, especially to help frame our thinking about the ‘mind strength to lead’.

From a systemic point of view, dyslexics are outliers – in school and in society. When I was growing up, my dyslexic brother was considered dumb because he could not read like the rest of us kids. Today, it would be politically incorrect to call anyone dumb. Disadvantaged, maybe, but not dumb or stupid or a numbskull. I am unsure if we live in more enlightened times, or if we have simply developed less harsh language to dump people into categories that differ from our sense of normal.

The good Drs Eide provide insights into dyslexics that we can apply to leadership:

  • Dyslexics are built to work differently – well, everyone is built to work differently, whether they are dyslexic or not. In extending an invitation to greatness to others, who are those others? How are they built? What does greatness mean to them?
  • Dyslexics are heroes on a perilous but promising quest – well, greatness is not a category or even a destination; it is a journey, a perilous quest, a challenge – both for the leader who invites and for the follower who is invited. Do we as leaders and those whom we lead have the strength to take up such a quest? Do we as leaders even have the right to extend such an invitation? Is it an invitation to failure or to success?
  • No one is ever cured of dyslexia – well, no one is ever assured of greatness. The journey is fraught with the potential for success and for failure. Like Odysseus, how can we navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of our own unmaking as we extend an invitation to greatness to others? He had a ship; we don’t.

One of the most fascinating outcomes of the research conducted by the Drs. Eide is their MIND Strength Model. Dyslexics are built to work differently, and by extension so are we all. To me, MIND Strength is a leadership model identifying the strengths of those extending the invitation to greatness and those who accept the challenge.
Leaders embrace the different ways people “see the world”, that is, the strengths and capabilities, skills-knowledge-aptitudes [SKAs] that people bring to any situation. In turn, leaders derive strength from the strength of others. The journey to greatness is a dialogue between inviter and invited, leader and led.


M-Strengths = Material Reasoning: abilities that help us reason about the physical and material world, such as shape, size, motion, position, orientation, interaction. Engineer, Surgeon, Mechanic.

I-Strengths = Interconnected Reasoning: abilities to spot connections between different objects, concepts, points of view, as well as to see how things like objects, ideas, events or experiences related to each other. Chef, Actor, Musician.

N-Strengths = Narrative Reasoning: abilities to construct a connected series of mental scenes from fragments of past experiences that can be used to recall the past, explain the present, simulate scenarios, and test important concepts. Public Relations, Sales, Poet.

D-Strengths = Dynamic Reasoning: abilities to predict accurately past and future using episodic simulation, as well as to make practical or best fit predictions or working hypotheses in setting where precise answers are not possible. Entrepreneur, Logistician, Farmer.

Those who extend an invitation to greatness and those who accept that invitation are

  • people who can gauge the physical realities, assess what is needed, deal with constraints, and design solutions [M-Strengths] – such as building distribution centres that function successfully under different business needs ranging from commodities to consumer goods;
  • people who can see the bigger picture connecting different elements into a larger totality [I-Strengths] – such as designing the software and IT platforms needed to integrate the entire company into a functioning and workable whole;
  • people who can weave a picture and tell a story [N-Strengths] in order to market our brand and sell our services;
  • people who can take risks and predict opportunities for growth despite the lack of detailed assurances [D-Strengths] – the CEO with an entrepreneurial spirit.


Ultimately, leadership is about exercising power. The difference between the different types of leadership is where the focus of power resides, that is, how we exercise power. Power is the most important requirement for success.

In our often too-polite world, we are afraid of the word “power”. Our automatic reflex is to associate power with evil – it is nefarious, dominating, overwhelming, sleazy, slippery, shadowy.

Social and cultural icons paint a picture of fear: the tempter-snake in the Garden, the licentious goat-footed Satyr, the diabolical Mephisto, the soul-seller Faust, the machiavellian Iago, the malevolent Jinn, the leering Dracula [of movies], and fire-breathing Smaug. The hairs on the back of our necks go up and we shudder at the sound of screeching violins in Psycho – the power of sound and memory.

Of course, the apotheosis of power in a corporate context is Gordon Gekko: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. At best, we feel that power is ambiguous, like the Arkenstone or the One Ring, which are magical forces for good or evil, depending on who possesses them and how they use them.

Power is part of every aspect of our lives: our relationships with others, even at the most intimate or most distant levels; our plans and actions, whether conceived alone or in groups; our decisions and their consequences; our very presence on earth and the stewardship we exercise for all our environments, whether familial, social, corporate or ecological.

To lead effectively, we must embrace power. So that begs the question: what do we mean by power?

In his Forbes blog What is Power, Really? (Oct 25, 2018), Rick Miller expands on the multi-dimensionality of power. I organize his insights into this model and recommend that you read his blog for fuller insight into each dimension.

Power is a human capability; its effective use is our capacity to lead in different situations. How we use power within context determines how we lead successfully.

We exercise “Power Over”, “Power With” and “Power To”:

Leading exclusively in Column C [Power To] may be an ideal to strive for, but may also be “too rich” for most corporate appetites. Leading exclusively in Column A [Power Over] may be from a dinosaur age [like a mastodon steak] but has merit on occasion. Leading exclusively in Column B [Power With] is probably normative in most corporations but might lack the clout of Column A and the spice of Column C – a bit vanilla. We need all three – power over, with, and to – as the situation requires.

Ultimately, leadership is situational. Given the different circumstances we face, we exercise power in different ways:

  • Sometimes we need to manipulate the situation: Leadership is the power to manipulate, to be Machiavellian
  • Sometimes we need to ensure things are administered well [compliance]: Leadership is the power of the system – KPI, SOP, ISO, Codes of Conduct, Codes of Ethics
  • Sometimes we must manage as professionals: Leadership is the power to plan, schedule, allocate resources, manage processes, make decisions
  • Sometimes we need to focus on the talents of others to transform the situation for the better: Leadership is the power to motivate

The challenge: How should I lead in the face of these complexities?


In the 21st Century, most companies are or can claim to be well-managed. They have made great strides towards efficiencies focused on corporate structures, operational processes, and performance excellence. We can say that for the most part companies are successful at what they do and can fully recognize themselves as Well-Managed, depicted in the above chart.

However, in the face of increasingly complex globally competitive markets, it is no longer enough to be efficient and well managed? How do companies handle random complexity? And compete innovatively? Or enter new markets? And handle the impact of emerging technologies?

How can companies go from being efficient to becoming effective in the face of what Michael Porter identified as the 5 competitive forces in global markets? Or operationalize Porter’s value chain to redirect success onto value, and not just limited to products/services produced? How do companies institutionalize the insights of Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline and create a learning organization that is better able to embrace complexity?

Dov Seidman shifted the corporate agenda in his book How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything [2007]. It is not what we do but how we do it that is critical to success as an organization. It takes values-driven leadership to transform the organization from well-managed to motivationally-led. The values-driven leader builds a self-governed organizational culture, as described in the chart below.

In the Values-driven Organization, the leader has vision, communicates openly and enlists others, assumes responsibility, plans and implements, builds succession and continuity, has an “in spite of” [barriers and setbacks] mindset, confronts complexity and ambiguity, wields charismatic authority, inspires, is principled, is rigorous about the truth of the present, reflects on his/her own capacity and actions, goes to the point of no return [risk taker], is passionate, is optimistic, and pursues significance.

By contrast, in a Values-driven Organization, the leader does NOT have a short-term outlook, lack transparency, follow, dream [but has a vision], depend on heroics, have a “because of” mind set [just follow the rules], seek simplicity/coherence only [but embraces complexity], have formal authority only [but has moral authority], does not motivate [but inspires], engage in just pragmatic decision-making [but deals with what-if scenarios and unknown possibilities], have blind determination [winning at all costs], lack awareness or is in denial, take the path of least resistance, act with complacence, hold limiting beliefs, or pursue success only.

Can you meet this challenge? How do you nurture your leadership skills?


LEADERSHIP IMPERATIVE: As organizations continue to transition from primarily bureaucratic and transactional groups to organic networks, aka eco-systems, the necessity for individuals to become contextually intelligent increases. Organizations that evaluate performance based on the ability to navigate complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity will ultimately prove to be the most effective.

Contextual intelligence is not a bigger version of the usual way we generate knowledge and intelligence. It does not involve more data, more information, more knowledge, or even more intelligence. It is not about what we need to make decisions, but it is about how we make decisions in context.

THE INTELLIGENCE CHALLENGE: Are you contextually intelligent? Can you quickly and intuitively recognize and diagnose the dynamic contextual variables inherent in a business situation or a market opportunity? Can you intentionally adjust your behavior to exert appropriate influence in that context?

Contextually intelligent leaders need to be able to diagnose the multi-dimensional complexity of contextual factors inherent in a situation, such as global supply chains. They must adjust, both intentionally and intuitively, their behavior to make decisions in context. They must be able to handle all the external, internal, interpersonal and intrapersonal factors that contribute to the uniqueness of each situation and circumstance. They must transform data into useful information, and convert information into knowledge, and assimilate that knowledge into practice. And they must extract wisdom [not just understanding or knowledge or awareness] from different experiences.


The biggest problem with the way organizations think about strategy is they confuse strategy with plans… Strategic planning is an oxymoron.

A strategy is a framework for making decisions about how you will play the game of business. These decisions, which occur daily throughout the organization, include everything from capital investments to operational priorities to marketing to hiring to sales approaches to branding efforts to how each individual shuffles his To Do list every single morning. Without a strategic framework to guide these decisions, the organization will run in too many different directions, accomplish little, squander profits, and suffer enormous confusion and discord.

A strategic framework must establish what the organization will do to deliver value for which customers are willing to pay and how it expects to hit target revenues and profits. The strategy doesn't answer all the questions required for implementation--that's planning, but it clearly establishes the game you are playing and how you expect to win. It also identifies the games you aren't playing — the things you have no intention of delivering, even if your best customer begs you.

Identifying products, services, and target markets is only the beginning. The strategic framework must also establish the business model used to profitably create sufficient volumes of value.

-- Ann Latham, What The Heck Is A Strategy Anyway? Forbes, October 29, 2017

As business and supply chain logistics practitioners and professionals, we are competent planners. We study, analyze, plan, execute, evaluate and adjust. Planning is how we effectively manage processes, standardize operations, implement procedures, and project KPIs. But do we add value to customers and establish the company’s competitive advantages in globally competitive markets? Is planning enough in the 21st Century?

Strategy demands Strategic Intent, which is a “never-ending dynamic and circular process” based on the purposeful interpretation and reinterpretation of on-going events, requiring our ability to interpret circumstances as they unfold, and using instinct, political savvy, curiosity, flexibility and imagination.

Strategic Intent is an essential element to contextual leadership. This ability is an individual’s skill and is not an organizational phenomenon.

CONTEXTUAL LEADERSHIP ETHOS is personally complex - real and perceived, psychological and social, physical and metaphysical. It is contextually complex - including such things as: geography, genders, industries, job roles or titles, attitudes, beliefs, values, politics, cultures, symbols, organizational climate, the past, the preferred future, and personal ethics. It is interpersonally complex - needing to recognize these contextual variables in self as well as in external and internal stake holders.

-- Matthew Kutz, Toward a Conceptual Model of Contextual Intelligence: A Transferrable Leadership Construct, Leadership Review, Winter 2008


Ironically, the Contextual Leader is a Non-Rational Decision Maker. A Rational Decision Maker, aka a planner, employs a multi-step process for choosing between alternatives that follows an orderly path from problem identification through solution, favoring logic, objectivity, and analysis over subjectivity and insight. A Non-Rational Decision Maker uses RDM [robust decision-making] to pursue optimal, not just acceptable, decisions, applying methods based on experience, intuitive judgement, gut instinct, and common sense, to make decisions in the face of uncertainty about whether the choices will lead to benefit or harm.


  • To take up the personal leadership challenge and explore values as a driver of our decisions and develop a greater in-depth understanding of our own personal value system?
  • To test our aptitude to lead, demonstrate our capacity to lead, and prove that we have the strength to lead?
  • To transition our focus from avoiding risks to building our ability to recover from the impact of risks?
  • To discover the challenges of leading with strength by learning from those on the fringe of “normal”?
  • To explore the complexity of leading in situations?
  • To become a values-driven leader with the professional credentials to validate our leadership capabilities?
  • To establish your Contextual Leadership credibility?
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