6 skills young leaders need for the 21st century

Madlen Popignatova 17
August 11th, 2020
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
6 skills young leaders need for the 21st century

2020 is putting everyone's leadership skills to the test.


For young leaders in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented yet another global and economic challenge that they will have to overcome in their lifetimes. Deloitte's Global Millennial Survey 2020 calls this group a "resilient generation: in the face of unprecedented health and economic disruption caused by the pandemic, millennials remain committed to their values and beliefs."


The Deloitte survey reveals that the pandemic has reinforced young leaders' desire to drive positive change and push their businesses and leaders to make the world a better place.


Young leaders have the power to guide us through these challenging times and lead us toward better futures. In our new program for emerging leaders, we focus on six skills we believe will make them stronger leaders:

1. Purpose-driven mindset

It all starts with purpose. A study by PwC found that 79% of business leaders believe that an organization’s purpose is central to business success, yet 68% shared that purpose is not used as a guide when it comes to decision-making within their organization.

Young professionals want to feel a sense of personal and professional purpose. If their purpose is aligned to the purpose of their organization, they are 5 times more likely to stay at their company, according to the same study). 

How do you derive meaning from your work?

Tap into what drives you in the THNK Emerging Leaders Program >>>

2. Influencing without authority

You don’t have to be the CEO, the investor, or even the most senior person in the room to have influence.

While a managerial title might be one of the most obvious sources of authority, it isn’t the only place influence comes from. There are many sources of authority you can leverage to inspire others to follow your lead, including:

  • Your expertise.
  • Your relationships.
  • Your organizational understanding.

How can you influence without authority? 

Drive change from any level of authority in the THNK Emerging Leaders Program >>>

skills young leaders
You don’t have to be the CEO, the investor, or even the most senior person in the room to have influence. #influence #youngleaders #emergingleaders #leadershipskills #creativeleaders Click To Tweet

3. Visioning

We define visioning as “the process of coming up with breakthrough ideas.” Today’s complexity demands creative ideas and solutions – but you don’t have to be a visionary to have a vision.

At THNK, we use unique methods for visioning – from reframing to backcasting to brain sketching – to help leaders come up with big, bold ideas to make a positive impact.

While everyone’s process is different, here are a few tips to get you started on visioning:

  • Look for inspiration in unexpected places.
  • Take it slow.
  • Get comfortable with taking risks (and trying new things!).
  • Surrender to the experience (we know this is easier said than done).

Where do good ideas come from? How do you come up with ideas?

Discover the process of coming up with breakthrough ideas in the THNK Emerging Leaders Program >>>

4. Conflict management

Conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing. At THNK, one of our values is that we are “Fueled by our differences.” We believe that our differences strengthen us.

Leadership expert Dale Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” Leaders can manage conflict and facilitate what we like to call “healthy conflict,” by providing a safe environment for people to share their emotions and give feedback in a way that is constructive and leads to positive growth and change.

We recommend active listening as one of the effective ways to resolve conflict – and it never hurts to ask the right questions.

How do you usually manage conflict and how do others do this differently from you?

Explore a variety of tools to manage interpersonal conflict >>>

skills young leaders
Today’s complexity demands creative ideas and solutions – but you don’t have to be a visionary to have a vision. #visioning #creativity #leadership #complexity #ideas #creativeleadership #youngleaders #emergingleaders Click To Tweet

5. Creative problem-solving

As a leader, you will face many problems as you grow; from developing new products and services to solving operational issues to developing new strategies. No single problem is the same – in fact, problems come in different archetypes and each archetype requires a different problem-solving technique.

Leaders with adaptable problem-solving skills are able to use the right tool to tackle the right problem, thereby realizing organizational growth and success.

Do you adapt your problem-solving approach to the type of problem you face?

Find out how to use the right problem-solving method for the right problem >>>

6. Reframing

We won’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.

Innovation happens when you challenge the conventional wisdom, allowing you to see things from a different perspective. Research shows that changing your mind is critical for growth. It’s called neural plasticity; each time we learn something new, the brain’s neural pathways are changed to accommodate the new information.

In many organizations, we are often told, “This is how we do it here.” But creative leadership is about unearthing assumptions and getting comfortable with contradiction, paradox, and ambiguity to discover new possibilities.

How often do you change your mind?

Practice a powerful, creative tool to look at things from a different perspective >>>

To develop your leadership and management skills as an emerging leader, join the THNK Emerging Leaders Program.

Also check out our 21st century leadership soft skills playlist on Youtube