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Developing 21st Century Leadership Skills

Creativity, embracing risk, questioning, systems thinking, collaboration, communication and worldview – these are among the skills needed for the 21st century, according to Grant Lichtman, chief operating officer at the Francis Parker School.

Lichtman – who was a guest speaker at LEAD San Diego’s IMPACT session dedicated to K-12 education – advocated that there is a disconnect between what we teach and what we want students to learn. The day was filled with discussions related to facts and figures on the educational system and potential solutions from various speakers, including Lichtman who says the world is changing at a dramatic rate, yet our educational system is not.

While his presentation was focused mainly on how we develop current and future students into individuals who possess the needed 21st century skills, I couldn’t help but also think about how we – as business leaders – instill and foster these skill sets among our current workforce.  I viewed the discussion through the eyes of someone who works in a field in which these skills are not only desirable, but necessary to survive.

The industry in which I work – like many other industries – can no longer get by on a set-in-stone knowledge or skill set. We must evolve. We must think critically. We can’t rely upon knowledge “professed” to us in college. We must come up with new solutions – and not be afraid to fail every once in a while. We also need to know not only how to “play nice in the sandbox,” but also how to engage in real collaboration for sustainable solutions to business challenges … and today, that often happens across borders and among different cultures.  It’s from this perspective that innovation and creativity is born.

How we instill these 21st century skills in children is therefore an important task. Also critical is how we nurture these skill sets for those who are currently in the workforce.  Programs, like those offered through LEAD San Diego, do just that.

At NST, we recently completed our annual retreat in which we reviewed our mission, vision and values and I’m proud to say that we adopted a new value this year, one that – while we’ve been practicing it, we’ve never put it on paper – focuses on the notion that we push ourselves and each other. It’s about not accepting the status quo. It’s about continual learning and exploration. It’s about feeding our sense of curiosity – and to not do it is no longer an option.

Teresa Siles (@tsiles) is vice president and director of social media at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker, a full-service public relations firm in San Diego focused on creating conversations and building relationships to help clients succeed.

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