The eight essential leadership capabilities for the 21st century

7 September 2023
Bridging science and leadership
Dr Ruby Campbell, scientist turned leadership coach, offers transformative advice to empower professionals in today's evolving world.

First and foremost, Dr Ruby Campbell (MScCoachPsych ‘16) is a scientist. But after observing the underrepresentation of scientists in CEO roles whilst working as senior leader in the pharmaceutical industry, she knew she needed to broaden her horizons.

She returned to university to study an MBA (Executive) and a Masters in Coaching Psychology, and at the same time, Ruby founded the executive coaching and consulting company ProVeritas Leadership. Through her company, she now helps others reach their full potential, especially in the STEM fields.

In today’s rapidly evolving and complex world, effective leadership is essential to drive organisations towards success. To navigate these complexities and inspire teams to achieve their fullest potential, leaders must embrace a transformative approach. Today, Ruby shares this leadership recipe with you.

1. Visionary thinking

Exceptional leaders possess the ability to envision a compelling future and communicate it with clarity. They cultivate a clear purpose and direction, inspiring their teams to pursue innovative solutions. By setting a compelling vision, leaders foster a shared sense of purpose that will motivate individuals to surpass their limits and achieve extraordinary outcomes. 

2. Collaboration and inclusivity

Inclusive leadership is vital in today's diverse workplace. Leaders must foster collaboration and create an inclusive environment where every individual feels valued, respected, and heard. By embracing diverse perspectives, leaders can harness the collective intelligence of their teams, promote innovation, and build a culture of trust and engagement. Such leaders forge strong partnerships within and outside their organisations to achieve shared goals and drive innovation.

3. Adaptability and agility

The 21st century is marked by constant change and disruption. Leaders must be agile and adaptable, embracing change as an opportunity for growth rather than a threat. Adaptable leaders promote a culture of learning, encourage experimentation, and willingly adjust strategies to capitalise on emerging trends. Their ability to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty enables them to navigate unpredictable landscapes with confidence.

4. Emotional intelligence

Leaders with high emotional intelligence can understand and manage their emotions while empathising with others. They build strong relationships, inspire trust, and foster an inclusive and supportive work environment. By recognising and harnessing the emotions of their teams, emotionally intelligent leaders empower individuals to perform at their best, resulting in higher levels of engagement and productivity.

5. STEM thinking

With the constant advancements in science and technology, we need to start elevating the skills intrinsically possessed by scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians (i.e. STEM). These characteristics include critical thinking, analytical thinking, problem solving, the ability to work in teams, and evidence-based decision making. In the 21st century and beyond, the ability to harness science and technology and make decisions based on evidence is paramount. 

6. Authenticity

Authentic leaders build trust and credibility by staying true to their values and leading with integrity. They are genuine in their interactions and create an atmosphere of transparency and honesty. By demonstrating vulnerability and admitting mistakes, they inspire their teams to embrace a growth mindset, take calculated risks, and learn from failures. Authentic leaders create an environment where individuals feel safe to express their ideas and contribute their best work.

7. Global perspective

Leaders in the 21st century must possess a global mindset to navigate the complexities of a globalised world, whilst attending to local priorities. They understand the nuances of cultural diversity, appreciate different perspectives, and actively seek to create inclusive environments. Global leaders are open to collaboration across borders, adapt their leadership style to diverse cultural contexts, and leverage the power of diverse teams to drive innovation and global success.

8. Lifelong learning

Continuous learning has become imperative for leaders in the 21st century. Effective leaders prioritise personal growth and encourage a culture of learning within their organizations. They stay curious, seek out new knowledge and skills, and embrace feedback as an opportunity for growth. Lifelong learners adapt quickly to change, inspire their teams to embrace a growth mindset, and foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Examples include but are not limited to: online micro-credential courses, workshops, conferences and seminars, and further tertiary education. 

Putting it all together

To lead successfully in the 21st century, leaders must embrace these eight essential capabilities. By developing visionary thinking, collaboration and inclusivity, adaptability and agility, emotional intelligence, STEM thinking, authenticity, a global perspective, and a commitment to lifelong learning, leaders can inspire their teams to achieve extraordinary results in an ever-evolving business landscape. Embrace these capabilities, and you will be well-equipped to navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

About Dr Ruby Campbell

Ruby is the Founder and CEO of ProVeritas Leadership, an executive coaching and consulting firm that helps organisations develop responsible and sustainable leaders. Starting out as a scientist, Ruby’s career as an executive coach came after 25 years of working in business development, change management and organisational design roles for pharmaceutical and biotech organisations.

Now she is using her practical knowledge and academic expertise to help business leaders to thrive in the 21st century, with a particular focus on STEMM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine) disciplines. Through her coaching programs and book, Scientists in Every Boardroom: Harnessing the Power of STEMM Leaders in an Irrational World, Ruby is revolutionising the way corporate business leaders and scientists think about leadership.