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9 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills

9 Essential 21st Century Leadership Skills

Educators around the world have been grappling with the concept of 21st Century Education and international school leadership for the past 20 years! Some are earnest, some are cynical and some are overwhelmed with the whole notion.


How are you dealing with the changes we need to make in schools to meet the needs of 21st Century Learners?  Do you have a clear vision of your way forward into an international education and collaborative mindset? Do you have the skills to get there? Are you feeling confused, frustrated or overwhelmed? Or are you just too damn busy to even think about it?


I understand how you feel! As a passionate educational leader for over 20 years I have recently carved out some time to research 21st Century Learning and 21st Century Leadership because I was feeling confused, frustrated and overwhelmed.


I don’t have all the answers but I now have a much clearer understanding of what we should be doing as 21st Century School Leaders and I’d like to share it with you.

Here’s a snapshot of my thinking to date.


1.  21st Century School Leaders are visionary. They …

  • Want the world to be a better place
  • Want to make a difference
  • Believe in collective genius
  • See now and the future as collaborative


2.  21st Century School Leaders are emotionally intelligent. They …

  • Lead from the heart, align vision with passion and unite people
  • Use a distributed leadership model
  • Empower others and unleash passions
  • Actively seek and promote Talent Development in their teams
  • Use an abundance not scarcity mindset
  • Recruit smarter more creative people than themselves
  • Think ‘Yes’ and then work out ‘How?’ and encourage others to adopt this approach
  • Are supportive, authentic and sincere
  • Do not use a ‘blame’ approach and ultimately take responsibility for everything that happens in the school or organization
  • When necessary, hold people accountable to the vision and their individual responsibilities


3.  21st Century School Leaders master self-leadership. They …

  • Are driven by purpose, not ego, power or money
  • Have grit and commit to see tasks through
  • Develop ‘Focus’ as a 21st Century Skill and simplify wherever possible
  • See their work as joy, creating their own happiness and making a difference to the lives of others
  • See failure as a growth point, an iteration and ask what have I/we learnt from this and plan next steps
  • Are courageous and conquer their fears and limiting thoughts
  • Manage their well-being


4.  21st Century School Leaders embrace change and innovation. They …

  • See opportunities and possibilities in everything
  • Are Change Agents and Change Advocates
  • Understand how to manage organizational change
  • Nurture a desire to innovate in their teams


5.  21st Century School Leaders welcome and value diversity. They …

  • Seek different perspectives and empower others
  • Are compassionate, responsible Global Citizens
  • Empathize and adjust communication and styles of collaboration across cultures and generations


6.  21st Century School Leaders develop a 21st Century Mindset. They …

  • Have a growth mindset
  • Have a positive attitude
  • Think outside the box
  • Think strategically
  • Are solution-oriented, proactive and non-reactive
  • Use data analysis to inform decision-making
  • Seek constant improvement for themselves and the organization they are leading, pushing themselves outside their comfort zone


7.  21st Century School Leaders are learners. They …

  • Focus on learning for themselves and the organization
  • Use systems thinking, design thinking, innovation and disruption to create Learning Organizations
  • Are reflective lead learners
  • Are Instructional Leaders
  • Are learning partners with students and teachers
  • Seek different perspectives about the future of learning


8.  21st Century School Leaders are connected with the world. They …

  • Develop fluency with digital and social media
  • Develop agile and flexible partnerships with others
  • Are intercultural and Intergenerational savvy
  • Understand that Sustainability must be embedded into the curriculum


9.  21st Century School Leaders take action. They …

  • Operate with a strong results focus
  • Emphasize the importance of efficiency, productivity and priorities
  • Solve problems effectively
  • Create the future.


See my article on The Most Important 21st Century Skill for further learnings. Sometimes the best thing to build your confidence is a bit more formal training. If so, you may consider enrolling in an international education masters degree.

You can learn more about 21st Century Leadership by attending the Future Focused Leadership in Schools  in Bangkok on 9 & 1o November 2019. Think Strategic has partnered with the American School of Bangkok – Sukhumvit Campus, a school of leaders, to offer Future Focused Leadership in Schools 2-day workshop in Asia. Register here.

If you have any questions contact Maxine

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