Digital, democratic and innovative, without hierarchical levels and without classical executives, everything much more fun and employee-friendly. This is the often sketched beautiful new world of work into which sooner or later all companies will transform themselves. It is also often claimed that such modern companies overtake employers who still use traditional management concepts in all respects.
The current “Top Job” trend study “New leadership” by the University of St. Gallen and the Center for Employer Attractiveness clears up fairy tales of the new world of work. We conducted an interview with Dr. Wolfgang Feige, TOP JOB consultant and very familiar with the study and business practice. We also asked him what the findings of the study mean for the future recruiting of executives. Read for yourself.
Hire Your Talent: In your study “New Leadership” you critically question some myths about leadership that arise in connection with changes in the working world. One thesis is again and again that modern leadership makes executives superfluous. This does not seem to be the case. But according to the study results, a different kind of leadership is needed, namely a tandem of shared and inspiring leadership. Can you briefly explain what you mean by this?
Dr. Wolfgang Feige: Simply abolishing the boss is as the well-known thesis says often sold as the tempting recipe for success of the future. In fact, it can be quite successful to give employees and teams their own areas of responsibility and decision-making authority and to release managers from their traditional tasks. The study shows that employee productivity increases by 18% compared to traditional forms of management. The manager then only creates the framework and makes sure that the employees take the right development to be able to act on their own responsibility. Here we speak of shared leadership, the so-called 180° horizontal leadership, a facet of modern leadership.
The other side, which bears the title ‘180° vertical inspiration’ or ‘inspiring leadership’, focuses on the life of meaning in daily work. Instead of simply ” encoding “, here the type of leadership is changed: A common vision increases the life of meaning and makes the ‘why’ and ‘for what’ clear in the work. In short, by anchoring concrete goals and tasks, work becomes meaningful for the employee and thus releases motivation and dynamism. The role model function of the manager is strongly in demand.
The combination of the two leadership styles is the supreme discipline, i.e. the most successful of modern leadership, the so-called 360° leadership. Modern leadership definitely does not make managers superfluous, only the “job” changes in the future. And it is challenging, because it requires leaders who can set the direction and the why, provide the necessary support, infrastructure and budget and are able to give professional feedback.
Hire Your Talent: What is the benefit of such a leadership culture for companies?
Dr. Wolfgang Feige: The supreme discipline is first and foremost a Herculean task, but one that is worthwhile, as the new trend study shows. Because with the combination of divided and inspiring guidance enterprises are also in the long term more efficient (+13%), more productive (+25%) and more innovative (+11%), than those, which lead traditionally in the Laissez-fair style. It could also be called a win-win situation for managers and employees and ultimately for the whole company.
Hire Your Talent: If hierarchies are dissolved, networks, shared responsibility in the team, interdepartmental work etc. are gaining in importance, what skills and competencies will managers need in the future in order to be able to implement and live this type of leadership?
Dr. Wolfgang Feige: Also high-level personnel must become accustomed to the changing guidance, constantly on itself work and cannot modern guidance overnight. I like to advise companies to use the so-called “three F’s” of modern leadership as orientation:
- First and foremost, it is important to set a “frame” by developing visions and making strategic connections. This results in clear goals that create an environment in which employees can repeatedly recognize the background and WHY of their actions.
- Furthermore, managers must grant employees “freedom” by delegating, letting go and trusting them, but at the same time coaching them and coordinating the overall framework.
- Last but not least, giving “feedback” is an important point. The manager should look into the process again and again and give the employees professional feedback on the results achieved so far. A sensitive way of communication is the key to success.
Hire Your Talent: What does that mean for recruiting and the selection of executives? What may have to change compared to today?
Dr. Wolfgang Feige: When recruiting executives, it is no longer necessary to pay as much attention to technical expertise. It is rather the competencies that should be questioned:
- How pronounced is strategic and networked thinking? Managers should be able to develop the big goals and at the same time break them down into smaller sub-goals, so that networking with other areas in the company is created.
- Is the manager prepared to take calculable risks? Especially in shared leadership, i.e. the increasing assumption of responsibility by the employees, the manager should be able to make a leap of faith and let go. Of course, this also entails the risk that something may not go as planned or may even go completely wrong.
- For inspiring leadership, understandable, empathetic communication is essential, because the manager must be able to communicate goals and objectives transparently to employees as well as giving empathetic praise and criticism.
- And a further very important ability is it to develop personal authority and respect, since for a modern guidance will be more crucial than the technical authority.
Hire Your Talent: Where do the companies currently stand with regard to New Leadership and how do you see the development in perspective?
Dr. Wolfgang Feige: The study provides very exact figures from the entire spectrum of US SMEs: 46% of the companies surveyed hardly live part of modern leadership, 31% have implemented at least part of modern leadership well and 22% already live the combination of shared and inspiring leadership to a high degree.
I visit many medium-sized companies and see that numerous companies also according to the individual company results of the TOP JOB survey are beginning to strengthen the inspiring leadership of their executives. According to the results of the trend study, this is exactly the right way to go. Otherwise, shared leadership will run into emptiness or, in extreme cases, even chaos. On the one hand, the managers do not have the confidence to let go and on the other hand, there is no awareness on the part of the employees of how they should align their own actions, as the WHY and the common direction are missing.
It is also important, however, that the companies do not hurry on the path to New Leadership, but that they go step by step towards the great goal of 360° leadership by branching off into ‘inspiring leadership’.
Hire Your Talent: Thank you very much, Dr. Feige, for your insight into the study on “New Leadership” and your assessments of future requirements and the effects on the recruiting of executives. You can already see from individual examples that in connection with the change of working environments, the competencies of existing managers are also reassessed and management positions are filled if necessary.