21 Leaders for the 21st century: The New Centurions - This month sees the opening of a Management Today/National Portrait Gallery exhibition of photographs of a new generation of business leaders. The subjects of Management Today Management Tomorrow, chos

21 Leaders for the 21st century: The New Centurions - This month sees the opening of a Management Today/National Portrait Gallery exhibition of photographs of a new generation of business leaders. The subjects of Management Today Management Tomorrow, chos

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

In the introduction to his classic history of modern capitalism, Scale and Scope, the Harvard economic historian Alfred Chandler describes the industrial transformation of the world at the turn of the last century.

'There came into being a new economic institution, the managerial business enterprise, and a new sub-species of economic man, the salaried manager,' he notes. 'With their coming, the world received a new type of capitalism.'

The 20th century certainly belonged to the manager. Kitted out in a bowler hat, pinstripe suit and umbrella, with his sector-grams and pie-charts, his company car, and his Miss Jones ever willing to take another note in immaculate shorthand, the salaried manager was the butt of a million satires yet he (and it was usually a he, not a she) built the century's great industrial empires, created its dazzling wealth and transformed the world from a largely rural, agrarian society to an urban, mechanised one. Love him or hate him the manager was one of the century's pivotal figures.

In the 21st century, will managers or business people have the same level of influence? Almost certainly - but it will be a very different kind of influence, and a very different breed of people.

Management Today has compiled a list of the managers who we believe will be influential in the new century (or, at least, the early part of it).

Our criteria and judgments have been subjective - there is no definitive way of telling who will succeed and who won't - but the list is based on talking to leading consultants, analysts and players as well as our own gut instincts as to which people will shape the commercial landscape of the next few decades.

We looked for people who might turn out to be the Henry Fords, the Akio Moritas, the William Boeings or the Gottlieb Daimlers of the new century. For that reason we excluded people working in the City, in the consultancies, or in advertising, even though they are often highly influential. No doubt there were great finance or marketing people that helped Boeing or Daimler get started, but theirs are not the names that history remembers.

'The kind of people we expect to be the leaders of the future will be working where the energy in the economy will be,' suggests Jan Hall of the head-hunting firm, Spencer Stuart, who helped to compile the listing.

'A lot of the people in the new economy might well turn out to be from a traditional blue-chip background, but they have had the energy and vision to move into the new space.'

The new style of management will be a lot more diverse than it has been in the past. In another time, a list such as this would have been dominated by the people who were, or would soon be, running the big companies that dominate the world. That might be leavened by a sprinkling of entrepreneurs, but they would be people who we thought had the ability to turn their companies into giants.

To be accurate now, a list of rising stars has to be dominated by people who are working in the new economy rather than the old. Notice as well that the list is diverse in terms of race and gender - notably there are two Asians, Reuben Singh and Shami Ahmed, on the list. The fact that it is ethnically diverse is no great surprise - the commercial world has always been relatively welcoming of new people. Think of the number of Jewish people who created the great businesses of the 20th century. But, also, there are now, as there should be, a number of women on our list.

That would not have been the case 50 or even 20 years ago.

Those running, or looking to run, big British companies are relegated to just one-third of our list. That does not reflect a judgment that big traditional companies no longer matter; they will continue to make most of the stuff we buy and pay most of our wages. But big companies don't matter as much as they used to. To reflect the diversity of the new economy we have divided our list into three sections: entrepreneurs, net heads and corporate stars. Our reasons for choosing particular individuals are detailed in the panels, but some general points emerge from the list.

The three categories are not mutually exclusive. The net heads are of course entrepreneurs, but the internet is such a potentially revolutionary medium across the whole spectrum of business that we felt it appropriate to give them a category of their own. There are two reasons for that. One is that the internet is attracting a lot of people who would not normally have thought of becoming entrepreneurs; the huge opportunities presented by the net is enticing people away from what would otherwise be safe, lucrative and rewarding careers within big companies or within professions such as law, consulting or banking.

It is also because many of the net heads are likely to move back into the big companies, either through being hired by them or through takeovers.

Steve Case might have thought he was leaving the big-company world when he joined AOL, but he is now chairman of AOL-Time Warner. Who is to say that Martha Lane Fox won't end up chairing lastminuteBritishAirways?

Even the big-company people should not be excluded from the ranks of entrepreneur. Where a decade ago the skills needed to control a big organisation were those of a tyrant, or at least a down-sizer, now big-company executives are just as likely to be entrepreneurs, creating new businesses or driving through huge changes.

They just happen to be working within the embrace of a big organisation rather than outside it - in-trepreneurs rather then en-trepreneurs. Some of the people on our list of corporate stars are heading up new units at traditional companies or pushing through big changes at old-established organisations.

We like to tell ourselves about living in a rapidly changing economy; if you think about the impact that electricity had on the world at the turn of the last century, it makes the internet seem inconsequential.

Even so, there is little question that the pace of change has quickened and that what sounds like a startling innovation one week can seem an established product the next. If the masters of big industrial organisations were the prime movers of the last century, it is the masters of change and transformation who will be the prime movers of this. We have tried to include people such as this on our list. They may not create a new type of capitalism, but they will help shape the version we already have.

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