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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Changing contours

The contours of leadership in the early part of the 21st century are changing dramatically. They encompass the macro-environments that influence the processes of leadership and that affect leaders and followers in any organization or setting. Three particular forces are worth mentioning. These forces increasingly affect leaders and their behaviors at most levels, and the constraints they impose on leaders and on their independence of action make a more holistic perspective about leadership essential:

  • Globalization
  • Innovation and technology
  • Political changes in world order

First, globalization—the integration of economies, societies, and cultures through linked systems of travel, communication, and trade—has created vast opportunities and major challenges for nations and their leaders. International corporations have blurred national boundaries in ways that the greatest colonial powers of the 18th and 19th centuries never imagined. International trade as a fraction of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was below 5 percent for most of the 20th century; today, it is estimated at 25 percent of GDP.2 Take a look at the manufacturers' labels in your clothing. Made in the USA is a thing of the past. It is virtually impossible to think of an industry not affected by international competition. General Electric has major operations and investments in three regions of the world: the technology-rich nations (the United States and Western nations); the people-rich nations ...

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