Defining leadership in the 21st century

Abraham Villarreal
3 min readJun 8, 2018

Since time immemorial, societies and cultures have relied on individuals of influence, people of power, to provide what we know as leadership.

It’s a term that means something different to everyone who speaks and hears it. My leader is different than yours, not just from the ideas he represents but also from his actions and in the manner of his conduct.

And today, at a time of great debate on all things small and large, we are redefining leadership from a classic sense understood by our parents and grandparents to one that meets the expectations and desires of a 21st-century people.

What is leadership? As a basic definition, it is the act of influencing others in trying to achieve a common goal. And just like that — the debate begins. What are common goals? Do we have them anymore?

My truth is my truth and yours is yours. I’ll get there my way and you go around your business your way. We are individualists always trying to show each other that we are correct in our ways of thinking, and doing.

If you take a moment to look a little deeper and peel back the layers of what seems a very fragmented society, you’ll find that there is much common ground. Most of what we believe are good things, are good things to most of us. Write down a list of evil and sinister ideas and actions, and you’ll likely find that you and your neighbor agree.

Even with the great diversity in ideas and cultural backgrounds that make the colorful American landscape we remain tied together as a community by values and higher ideals to which we have held true since the founding of this nation.

We forget to think of those values, those big ideas, because we are busy focusing on the small ones, the little things that tear us apart. We run the risk of death by a thousand cuts.

Our republic is fragile. Sometimes it feels like we are balancing off a ledge. We look down and look back but forget to look ahead. We are taking small steps instead of big ones.

And somehow it feels like a leader can save us from the great fall. A leader can heal the great divide. He, or she, can say the words we want to hear. Remind us of the big things that helped us get going, get started, more than 200 years ago.

That is the leader that we need in the 21st century because we are in many ways the same people that we have always been. Yes, our ideas change and so do many other aspects of culture and society. What doesn’t change are the big things, the values that deep inside we share in common.

And so, we’ll wait, and hope for a leader to rise to the occasion. Throughout history, many have in times of division. It’s difficult to see those leaders especially when they are staring you in the face, but they do exist.

Leadership is how we define it. Let’s come together and redefine it at a time when it is needed.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt



Abraham Villarreal

People are interesting. I write about them and what makes them interesting.