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Month: July 2021

25 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills

25 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills

There’s much that’s new and different about leadership, management, and communication in the digital age.

There’s also significant continuity with earlier times.

One might say: the principles endure, the applications change.

What’s old and what’s new are both seen in the following list of 21st century leadership skills (one might as well have said 21st-century leadership traits, but the term skills better convey that leadership comprises capacities that can be learned, refined, cultivated, improved… and constantly updated to serve more effectively).

The list that follows attempts to capture enduring leadership lessons within the unique, fast-moving circumstances of the early 21st century.

Please share your views and share with others. Like everything today, it’s a work in progress, made better by collaborative input.

 25 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills

9 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills - Think Strategic for Schools

1. Leaders Serve. In the Information Age, everyone everywhere is potentially in a relationship with you (whether you choose it or not). A service mentality is not just an ethical plus—it’s required.

2. Cultivate Courage. Courage and sacrifice remain the foundation of leadership, service. The higher levels of service—and sacrifice—are the binding elements of effective leadership in all times and places.

3. Think in Terms of Relationships. Gaining advantage in isolated transactions cannot be the basis of a sustainable business model. Now every business is a relationship business.

4. Create Value. Value is not based on how long or hard you work, or on your commendable motivations, or what you think you deserve. It’s based solely on your customers’ judgment. Today, those you serve are empowered to seek out, compare, and measure value as never before.

5. Advance Your Customers’ Values to Create Value. In a time of customer empowerment and relentless commoditization, advancing the values of your customers can be a potent differentiator. Focusing on values is not a distraction from the hard facts of business. Today, values can create value.

6. Vision Remains the Foundation of Leadership. From the Bible to this very day, casting a vision remains an indispensable element of leadership. 

7. Make Management a Vital Part of Your Leadership. Management is part of leadership. Effective leaders are effective managers. Effective managers are effective leaders.

8. Aim to be Best in the World. That’s right: in the world. Mediocrity is lethal. Best in the world is the only sustainable business model. In our digital age, people can seek out the best value from anywhere in the world. Resting on laurels, or settling for second-best has never been so hazardous.

9. Listen and Observe with the Intensity of an Artist. Listening is the master skill in a relationship-based world. An ideal is to learn to listen and observe with the focus of an actor, a writer, a painter. Merely hearing is as far from listening,  as conversing at a coffee table is from presenting a speech to thousands.

10. Ask Questions. Refrain from Answers. The open ends of question marks invite engagement. The closed ends of periods are the equivalent of the body language of defensively crossed arms. Declarations fit naturally into transactions. Questions are the building blocks of relationships. 

11. Master the Arts and Science of Influence. Internal and external stakeholders have greater leverage than ever before. The age of the boss is over. “The power to persuade” is now as necessary a skillset for corporate CEOs as politicians.

12. Recognize that Communication is Part of Everything You Do. Communication skills cannot be delegated or outsourced. You are your message. From new media to traditional meetings, effective 21st century leaders must master an ever-evolving range of communications expectations.

13. Collaborate to Create Value. The smartest person in the room is always the room. Think, listen, speak, and act accordingly.

14. Create a Stimulating Ecosystem. Have a personal board of advisors. Search out mentors. Comb history for “spiritual ancestors.” Connect with people of accomplishment through social media. Beware flooding your consciousness with a torrent of vacuous, popular culture effluvia.

15. Learn from Other Generations. What are you learning from various generations? Every generation now has a voice. Will you listen and learn?

16. Learn from Other Cultures. A world of customers and competitors and prospects and resources is just a mouse click away. Communicate and collaborate where they are–not where you are.

17. Learn from Public Failures and Mistakes. You’re less likely to have your falls hidden behind the walls of large institutions. Are you able to get off the mat, get back into the ring? Many of your missteps or misfortunes will be captured for eternity in all their digital glory. Get over it.

18. Cultivate an Experimenter’s Mindset. Innovation includes false leads and failures. Today’s failure may be the basis of tomorrow’s breakthrough.

19. Break Boundaries, Silos Wherever They Appear. Don’t let others’ limitations of imagination or experience or customs or organizational culture limit your capacity to serve. 

20. Demand Optimism. Optimism—or negativity—can spread from a leader through her ranks faster than ever. Whether to be publicly optimistic is a leadership decision, not simply a matter of a one’s individual temperament or druthers.

21. Engender Enthusiasm. The universal spirit that flows through enthusiasm remains compelling. The very word is derived from the root, “the spirit of God in man.” Yet another breadcrumb reminder that leadership is, ultimately, a spiritual practice.

22. Be Relentlessly Adaptable. The value of your service is determined by your capacity to evolve in the rapidly unfolding circumstances of the early 21st century. Nonetheless, don’t flatter yourself that your challenges of change are the greatest in history. Thus far, they’re not comparable to those of the generations born at the dawn of the 20th century, for example.

23. Safeguard Your Physical, Mental, and Spiritual health. Your health constitutes the foundation of all your service. Not to maintain your physical health—especially as one becomes older—is to succumb to self-indulgence. Seen in this way, safeguarding your health is a moral duty of the highest order.

24. Think Like an Artist. Leadership is an art. Make every aspect of your experience a part of your evolution.

25. Achieve Integrity. The sum of your parts can be united into a whole that only you can create. Therein lies your calling.

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10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries and Inventions of 21st Century

For the past centuries, there have been countless developments and advancements in the world. Scientists and researchers have continued to discover new things and expand our understanding and knowledge of the natural phenomena happening around us.

In the 21st century, there are thousands of scientific breakthroughs. These have helped in improving our way of living while some are the key to greater innovation in the future.

In this article, we ranked the greatest scientific discoveries and inventions of the 21st century.

Detection of Gravitational Waves

Scientists considered this the greatest discovery of the 21st century. Let us go back to the time when Albert Einstein first predicted in his theory of relativity that time travel will be possible. Now, it has been proven by the recent findings. The LIGO project based in the United States has detected gravitational waves that could allow scientists to develop a time machine and travel to the earliest and darkest parts of the universe. This was the first time that they witnessed the “ripples in the fabric of space-time.”

mars - 10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries and Inventions of 21st Century

Evidence of Water on Mars

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration confirmed last September 2015 that there is evidence proving the existence of liquid water on Mars. Using the imaging spectrometer of NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists detected hydrated salts in different locations on Mars. During the warm season, the hydrated salts darken and flow down steep. However, they fade in cooler seasons. The detection of hydrated salts means that water plays a vital role in their formation.

Robotic Body Parts

Through the help of biomechanics and engineering, scientists have devised robotic body parts. The University of Twente has developed robotic arms that can aid those individuals affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This will allow patients to amplify residual function in the arm. They also applied Darpa’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics project of creating prosthetics to wounded US military personnel, in developing robotic limbs. Today, scientists are studying the viability of making these robotic body parts or exoskeletons controlled by the mind to help disabled individuals, survivors of stroke, and elderly people.

T. Rex Tissue

Paleontologists have discovered a partially fossilized and decomposing femur of a Tyrannosaurus rex which was believed to be 70 million years old already or a date closer to the biblical date of creation. Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University and Montana State University found out flexible and transparent vessels. This soft tissue discovered is preserved because of the iron between the leg bones. The T.Rex tissue is very essential in determining the physiology of dinosaurs and studying their cellular and molecular structures. They have found out that dinosaurs are closely related to big birds, like the ostrich.

hiv - 10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries and Inventions of 21st Century

Advancement in HIV Cure

According to, there are over 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, of which 1.8 million it is children. HIV/AIDS remains to be one of the deadliest diseases in the world. On the other hand, HIV treatment has been available in Germany for more than two decades already. Antiretroviral therapy allows HIV/AIDS patients to live longer. However, no definite cure is still discovered. In 2007, Dr. GeroHütter was the first one to successfully cure an HIV/AIDS patient named Timothy Ray Brown by transplanting bone marrow from an HIV-immune patient.

Existence of Dark Matter

In 2006, a team of researchers has found evidence that proves the existence of dark matter. They inferred the presence of dark matter by measuring the bullet clusters or the location of mass in the collision of galaxies. According to Maxim Markevitch of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, dark matter can be proven by the bulk of visible matter in the clusters that have been disconnected from the rest of the mass. According to NASA, it is still a complete mystery. What they can prove for now is that 68% of the universe is composed of dark energy.

Sequencing Genome of Cancer Patient

In 2003, scientists completed the sequencing of the human genome or genetic blueprint that points out the mutations leading to cancer. It took three years for them to finish drafting the three billion letters that compose the human DNA. The Human Genome Project helped scientists in treating a deadly type of skin cancer and understanding the genes involved in leukemia, eczema, and diabetes. Now, cancer genome sequencing is integrated into medical care facilities. It characterizes and identifies DNA or RNA sequences of cancer cells.

Creation of Human Organs

Stem Cell research has paved the way to greater access to organs, instead of waiting for donors or taking harsh medications. Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have discovered how to regenerate the function of human heart tissue through adult skin cells. Through stem cells, humans can grow another organ. This is associated with the regenerative nature of living organisms. Recently, various research all around the world enables the growth of fallopian tubes, the heart, the brain, lung, and kidneys, among others through stem cells.

water - 10 Greatest Scientific Discoveries and Inventions of 21st Century

Water as Fuel

German Cleantech Company has developed a futuristic machine that converts water into fuel.  Through Power-to-Liquid Technology, they can convert water and carbon dioxide into liquid hydrocarbons which take the form of synthetic diesel, petrol, and kerosene. This technology was based on the Fischer-Tropsch process and solid oxide electrolyzer cells (SOECs) which convert electricity to steam. In 2017, Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and Berkeley Lab’s Materials Project also devised a technology that turns sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel which can be a viable source of power, replacing coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Face Transplants

A face transplant is a medical procedure that replaces a person’s face using the tissues of a dead person. In 2005, Isabelle Dinoire of France was the first person to have a partial face transplant while the first full-face transplant happened in Spain in 2010. Face transplants have been popularly carried out in the United States, Spain, France, and Turkey. This is applicable for people with birth defects or disfigures caused by burns, disease, and trauma.

The challenging environment for science in the 21st century

The Look and Feel of 21st Century Science | by Joe Brewer | Age of  Awareness | Medium

Successful universities the world over are deeply connected with the social, economic and political environment in which they serve. However, universities should also operate independently as they are not factories or political tools, and they do not need charismatic leaders the way armies and churches might.

Universities are collectives, and open, critical discourse based on democratic principles is essential for their success. As part of their time-honoured compact with society, universities should not blandly surrender to outside pressures, but actively and critically engage with them.

Social and political context

There are an increasing number of national imperatives that universities need to consider in deciding how to position themselves. For instance, since the dawn of South Africa’s democracy, there has been a push to broaden access to higher education in order to accommodate more students with different prior experiences, different goals and ambitions, and different levels of preparedness. Importantly, transformation of our universities has included calls to diversify the professoriate and to change the culture of universities.

The weak South African economy suggests that the country’s universities should prepare their students more directly for the job market. There are cries for a stronger focus on practical skills development, almost akin to vocational training. There is an expectation that academics and researchers should make more direct contributions to marketable innovations, and be more inventive with developing practical applications and solutions to everyday problems.

Funding agencies call for research programmes with more direct relevance to South Africa. There are, thus, enormous pressures for curriculum reform, and invariably arguments for decolonisation, with all its political ramifications.

Coupled to the above, a burgeoning agenda for African development is being set by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and looking further afield, the global socio-economic and political environment for change is being defined fairly comprehensively by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. These are further considerations that universities are being asked to take on board to frame their research and teaching programmes if they are going to be relevant in the future.

Politicisation of research

The challenges for science in the 21st century do not end there. A real problem today is that truth is increasingly being undervalued, and scientific research is becoming politicised, for example, in the context of climate change. This is a scourge that is spreading world-wide.

The efforts required to advance knowledge for societal benefit are not always understood and appreciated by society, including by decision-makers. The need for an independent, critical academy is not always appreciated and, on the contrary, is often seen to be a threat by many autocratic regimes.

It is becoming difficult to discriminate between real and bogus information ‘out there’ because much of the information on the internet has not been sufficiently tested for veracity and truth. Lies can be propagated at a phenomenal rate. For universities, which should pride themselves on uncovering the truth, this is debilitating. In this environment, it is also becoming more difficult to counter plagiarism and protect intellectual property – matters that are of profound importance for our universities.

Most, but not all, citizens of the world have free and easy access to information, which begs the question: “Are our universities becoming less relevant?” They will be if educational and research systems are not adjusted. We certainly need more discussion on how universities should change, and this will remain a hotly contested area in planning for the future of universities for many years to come.

Global challenges

There is a growing number of substantive challenges in academia. Across a majority of disciplines, we are moving into the era of extremely large data sets, calling for smarter and more secure means of storing and transporting data, as well as accessing and mining data intelligently for research and decision-making.

This means that an increasing number of researchers across many different disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences, need to become more computationally competent. In addition, these researchers need to be preparing to work in larger, multidisciplinary teams to resolve quantitative problems more effectively. While this need is set to grow, this transition is arguably not happening fast enough.

The world-wide science system has become enormous, and it is proving to be extremely difficult to keep up with research outputs in one’s own narrow research area of interest, let alone more broadly. The flood of information is overwhelming and we need smarter ways to keep up, or else we run the risk of duplicating efforts and falling behind.

On the topic of peer-reviewed publications, it has finally dawned on academics and universities that they should not be paying exorbitant costs to access publicly-funded research and in so doing enrich large corporations. The entire world of publications in this age of the internet is in a process of radical change. Academics need to seriously contemplate the pros and cons of open access, and actively participate in the global discussions currently taking place, for example, around the proposed European Plan S.

Developing science responsibly

There are enormous disparities in science around the world, which demand that we think more deeply about how we develop science more extensively on a global scale for the good of all of humanity.

The big science questions need big – meaning expensive – research infrastructures. This calls for large, multidisciplinary teams and multinational collaborations. We must ask how we can participate more effectively, especially from the southern tip of Africa. The rest of Africa is falling behind because there has been relatively little commitment from many African countries to invest in scientific research infrastructure and in people development. This will continue to hold Africa back.

South Africa is globally connected though the internet, which means that the country is also susceptible to international terror through breaches in cybersecurity. The ways in which some international agencies and governments are protecting themselves against cyber-attacks are top secret for obvious reasons, which means that many countries in the developing world are left in the dark and will need to figure out their own solutions. African countries and their universities need to invest in their own programmes to interrogate cybersecurity for their own well-being and national security.

Open-ended, unfettered science in its purest form has, over the centuries, been pursued in the interests of understanding nature in a fundamental way, and long may that continue. Scientific ideas and discoveries have often been very successfully exploited for commercial gain and societal improvements, and much of the science system today the world over is designed to push scientists in the direction of more relevance. The applications of science coupled with critical thought have been essential in solving many problems facing society.

Usually, that impact has been positive, but not always. There has been collateral damage and unintended consequences along the way; for example, plastics in our oceans, and other harmful environmental effects. The military has been a strong supporter of science in many countries, including during apartheid South Africa. Science has been driven in particular ways to gain superior might. Many authoritarian states, such as North Korea, have invested significantly in a very narrow set of scientific endeavours and technologies with a singular purpose in mind.

Through the millennia, there has always been the potential for scientific outputs to be misused, from the time the simple domestic knife was invented. Science in the wrong hands can be catastrophic – and a climate for the misuse of science is growing.

Limited global resources

Some of the more difficult questions that academics need to think about relate to the consequences of the rapidly increasing global population and the stress this places on our resources and environment. This is already resulting in a power struggle for limited resources. The future of the human race depends on scientists finding more intelligent answers to difficult questions, and here researchers have a central role to play.

With the rapidly increasing world population one can conclude that, purely from a statistical viewpoint, each life is becoming less significant. It should boggle the mind, then, to think about what this could imply in terms of the potential for increased unethical behaviour towards our fellow human beings, for example, in terms of mass exterminations, human experimentation and cruelty.

We should think deeply about this and how academics can try to counter these tendencies in their work – by identifying the problem early on, and proposing solutions before the problem gets beyond our control.

History will show that so much has been accomplished by so few with so little over the past 100 years. This period has been unprecedented in the history of the human race. It is difficult to believe that the electron was discovered just over 100 years ago, and through science and the applications of science, technology, industrialisation and commercialisation, and sheer ingenuity, humans have been able to harness the fullest potential of the electron to fundamentally change the way in which we live our lives, not only in a technical sense, but also in a social sense. This tiny particle has come to define our age, namely the electronic age.

This stunning growth over a short period does raise unrealistic expectations that new scientific ideas and technologies needed to solve challenges in the 21st century will emerge just as easily, just as rapidly and just as cheaply, with the snap of a finger, so to speak.

But that is not correct.

Support for science

Our universities are working under extremely tight fiscal constraints. Academics are being asked to do much more with much less at a time when our universities are under enormous pressures to be ‘world class’. Science needs much more support for the public good.

In striving to be nationally responsive and world class, South African science must be connected with the global environment that frames science. We should be consolidating and setting the foundations to be world class. We need to be excellent in all aspects of the academic enterprise including our management, operations, teaching and learning, research and external engagements.

Universities in South Africa have been in a state of stress for a while, and one wonders whether an era of stability is possible in which to focus on core functions.

A successful and prosperous South Africa depends on a modern, scientifically literate and technically competent workforce, and here, universities have a central role to play. They are a precious resource.

Stakeholders need to engage more intelligently and constructively with each other within and without the university, or the idea of the university will be under threat. We are but temporary custodians of the institutions we inherit. The hope and expectation are that we will build on the foundations that have been laid by others over the years, and to leave it in a better state than we found it.