What 21st Century Leaders Do

What 21st Century Leaders Do

In light of the COVID-19 global crisis, there’s been an outpouring of rich, meaningful, and caring leadership advice. Organizations like the Service Nation Inc., Service Titan, and the Go Time Success Group have gotten out front and provided useful leadership information for contractors.


So, today I am not going to write about leadership in times of crisis, instead, I am sharing leadership advice to help be better prepared for the next crisis. Because just as sure as death and taxes, we’ll encounter another situation down the road that will require your level-headed, calm, and reassuring leadership skills to navigate.


1.    Leaders are passionate about making a difference. To be of significance in the lives of people who rely on the leader, the leader must first believe and have the utmost confidence that they will make a difference. Next, the leader must take action in the difference they’re striving to make, even if it’s just a small step.

2.    Leaders have purpose. Leaders have a cause and or belief. It’s the source of their passion and inspiration. People crave to be part of a positive movement bent on making the world a better place. Leaders inspire like-valued people to join their cause and make a difference.

3.    Leaders must be warriors for the education of positive psychology. Grounded in science and not Pollyanna wish-wash, positive psychology has the power to transform lives.

4.    Leaders paint the picture of a world that’s living and benefiting from their cause. The picture doesn’t have to be alluring and enticing. But it must speak to the hearts of like-valued people clearly and concisely. 

5.    Leaders must be stewards of the picture they paint. In other words, leaders must walk their talk. In all settings and circumstances, leaders must model the desired behavior and nurture the vision. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.”

6.    Leaders must be the change they wish to make. Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

7.    Leaders need great managers to get it done. Skilled managers, maximizing human potential, are the foundation of every great organization. 

8.    Leaders set the example of expectations for their managers. Expectations need to be continually evaluated, fine-tuned or tossed. Managers need consistent coaching and accountability to support, grow, and develop their people.

9.    Leaders are often not the star players. It takes an entirely different skill set to install and or repair a mechanical system. Leaders derive intrinsic satisfaction from orchestrating the spirit and work of others through a noble cause.

10. Leaders love chaos, mess, and ambiguity. There is no energy and creativity in neat and tidy rows of tin soldiers politely obeying orders. Leaders create hope and excitement by freeing, orchestrating, and channeling the energy of others.

11. Leaders thrive on diversity. Leaders know not much is accomplished with row after row of vanilla tin soldiers. Steve Jobs said it best, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

12. Leaders encourage and reward authenticity. Leaders cannot work with people who punch in and punch their true selves out at the door. Leaders thrive on engaging with like-valued people who let their souls dance about freely in the workplace.

13. Leaders power relationships by adding value. John Maxwell says, “We add value to others when we…”

  • Truly value others
  • Make ourselves more valuable to others
  • Know and relate to what others value
  • Approach and serve from a servant’s heart

14.          Leaders empathize. Leaders possess the ability to identify and understand other people’s emotions.

15.          Leaders listen. Leaders check the pulse of the world and others by listening. It’s impossible to make progress without an understanding of what needs changed, innovated, and or advanced.

16.          Leaders read books. You’d be hard-pressed to find a quality leader today who doesn’t read books or listen to books.

17.          Leaders perpetuate energy. Benjamin Zander said leaders need to be “dispensers of enthusiasm.” For leaders to persevere, they need to take care of their mind, body, spirit, and heart. 

18.          Leaders need to embrace technology. Technology facilitates change. As agents of change, leaders need to leverage technology to be effective.

19.          Leaders need other leaders. Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Be intentional about surrounding yourself with leaders capable of adding value to your life. (Of course, you must give value as well).

20.          Leaders create leaders. Leaders can attract followers or they can develop leaders. In developing leaders, they exponentially increase company growth while inspiring personal fulfillment opportunities.

21.          Leaders continue to reinvent themselves. Leaders need to be prepared for change. And when the time is right, they need to take massive action forward, even if that means shedding their shell. 

22.          Leaders embrace the positive side of failures. Failures are learning and growing opportunities. Leaders coach and inspire managers to use failure to advance, they do not punish because of it. “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

23.          Leaders make solid decisions. They apply critical thinking and use analytics-driven evidence to pull the trigger and achieve organizational objectives.

24.          Leaders take the seeds of the organization’s purpose and sew them into the culture. The sun (purpose) beams upon the culture, embodying possibility. Leaders cultivate, knead, and nurture the culture via the company’s core values.

25. Leaders lead by living their company’s core values. Core values are a North Star of beliefs that guides the behavior of leaders and employees.

26.          Leaders win through the deployment of adept and smart logistics. Tom Peters said, “It doesn’t matter how brilliant your vision and strategy are if you can’t get the soldiers, the weapons, the vehicles, the gasoline, the chow – the boots for God’s sake! – to the right people, at the right place, at the right time.” Strive to emulate this one-noun-visual: Amazon.

27.          Leaders laugh. And they laugh at themselves. Leaders who take action often get themselves in awkward positions. If leaders can’t laugh at themselves and focus on the positive, they’ll turn into miserly, miserable haggards of humans being completely ineffective. (If you turn into this type of human being, who will help you with your Depends when you get elderly? My daughters have drilled this into my head. I treat my daughters wonderfully).

28.          Leaders don’t immortalize their press clippings. No one gets into a leadership position without the help of others. They nurture, grow, and recognize those in their life who contribute.

29.          Leaders must execute consistently while fighting consistency. The same ole, same ole is not sustainable. Leaders support and encourage innovation. Leaders draw upon their outer circle to ingest new ideas and weigh their value against current operations – consistently.

30.          Leaders intentionally build their inner circles. These folks are influential, bring value to the table, add value to the leader and organization and positively impact others, especially others in the inner circle.

31.          Leaders intentionally build outer circles. The folks complement the leader’s strengths, they focus on tomorrow and are highly creative.

32.          Leaders use analytics to understand. Leaders use stories, however, to explain.

33.          Leaders hold people accountable. Like-valued people are grateful for this direction.

34.          Leaders lead with their strengths. And then surround themselves with others who shore up their weaknesses. 

35.          Leaders evangelize a strengths-based work culture. Read It’s the Manager by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, the best book on management I’ve read to date.

36.          Leaders cultivate their brand. A brand is what the market and people say it is. Leaders lead and behave in a manner that perpetuates their desired personal brand.

37.          Leaders support those in their organizations who upset the status quo. Yes-men and women anchor leaders to yesterday.

38.          Leaders run for office every day. A leader’s title might place them in charge, but to stay in front, they must grind it out on a daily basis. If a leader wants to achieve something special, Tom Peters offers sage advice: “You’ve got to get the frontline commitment, the votes! You’ve got to get your customers to vote for you, your suppliers to vote for you, your employees to vote for you. How do you get them to do more than just show up? You enlist them and win their votes one $%#& day at a time!”

39.          Leaders see the world with a leadership bias. John Maxwell says that intuition is a combination of a person’s strengths and learned skills. Leaders develop their strengths and skills by observing others when they’re called to demonstrate leadership. There are some awfully good lessons to be learned in the world right now.

40.          Leaders are trustworthy. Leaders do not relent one bit, one iota, one smidgin from doing the right thing at all times.

41.          Leaders are the College Presidents of their organization. Leaders instill, cultivate, and nurture learning organizations.

42.          Leaders give respect. A byproduct of giving respect is gaining respect. Leaders build trusting relationships based on advice Mom’s have been doling out for centuries: Be respectful.

43.          Leaders attract who they are. John Maxwell says, “…who you attract is not determined by what you want. It’s determined by who you are.” Perhaps other than integrity, one of the most critical traits for a leader to possess is positivity. If the leader is lacking positive people in their organization, it’s time to look in the mirror. 

44.          Leaders begin with the end in mind.Whatever the desired picture of the fruit of their work, they start with it and then work towards it.

45.          Leaders are intentional about building their legacy. They do not leave it to chance, if they want their work to live on, they identify it, live it, and embrace the kind of people who will perpetuate it.

46.          Leaders shift when necessary. Leadershift is the ability to make a leadership change that will positively enhance organizational and personal growth. Thank you, John Maxwell.

47.          Leaders bask in the light………..of others. Almost nothing pleases a leader more than when those who they’ve worked with succeed.

48.          Leaders are growth-minded. The quintessential bible on the growth mindset is written by Carol Dweck: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

49.          Leaders influence people to think, speak and act in ways that make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of others. Their actions inspire people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more. These leaders are known as Transformational Leaders. When combined with sound business acumen, Transformational Leaders will end the skilled trade labor shortage.

50.          Leaders emulate successful role models. “I studied and modeled my leadership style after the greatest leader to ever walk the earth, Jesus. Jesus started with his inner circle of 12. He modeled what it looked like to be a leader. He spent time with them, ate with them, taught them, corrected them, and loved them. Then when they were ready, he empowered them and sent them out to do the same. He didn’t micromanage but continued to model and love them.” – Chris Hunter

51.          Leaders take massive action! 


It’s Go Time!



My work is influenced by Tom Peters, John Maxwell, Jim Clifton, and Jim Harter. Their voices shine throughout these 51 points!


Dave Rothacker is an author and specializes in Idea Cultivation for Go Time Success Group.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area!


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