Leadership in the digital environment

digital leadership development consulting

“Digital leadership” or “leadership 4.0” – what does that actually mean? Leadership in the digital age replaces the traditional understanding of leadership, which was based on detailed analyses and long-term planning. This is exactly what digital transformation, which is accompanied by a high speed of change, no longer allows. Instead, the focus is on trust, networking, transparency, openness, personal responsibility and dynamism.

If employees trust each other, exchange ideas openly and enjoy participating in the “big picture”, the desired agility results from direct communication, the introduction of new ideas and a quick reaction time. Mutual trust actually forms the basis for this. Because if this is missing, people will not communicate openly and prefer to keep their ideas to themselves.

Agile leadership is leadership at eye level.

Agile leadership means:

  • Listening instead of commanding,
  • Trust and allow mistakes,
  • For employees and team to be the coach,
  • Create a framework in which all team members can develop freely and contribute their individual skills,
  • Only intervene when necessary.

It is therefore not a management task to set goals and solutions, but rather to put together the right teams, i.e. cross-departmental and cross-functional, and to set the rough direction. Power is therefore increasingly being shifted from managers to teams that control and network themselves. In doing so, it is permissible to experiment with approaches to solutions, to make mistakes and to concede them in order to learn quickly from the experience gained.

Why Workshops? – Digital Leadership requires a cultural change.

Digital leadership is first and foremost a cultural change. Companies and, above all, executives at the top must understand that the desired agile environment can only be created if a new, open corporate and leadership culture is not only allowed, but actively exemplified from top to bottom.

This is initially difficult for many managers. So when it comes to building and expanding digital leadership skills, workshops are enormously helpful. They promote open exchange with other managers concerned and show managers how to master cultural change personally and which skills they need to apply in a targeted manner.

Digital leadership can and must be learned.

The American psychologist Daniel Goleman, who coined the term emotional intelligence (EQ), was already convinced that leadership was just as easy to learn as playing guitar or golf. Leadership is therefore not an “innate” quality, but rather an ability that we can acquire throughout our career and development.

Conversely, this means that the most important task of a manager is to continually improve his or her leadership skills. The fact that despite this knowledge there are often deficits in this area is due to the fact that many managers have a leadership function due to their professional qualifications. On the other hand, they have never learned how to lead people.

Emotional leadership creates team spirit and creativity.

The short-term shareholder value thinking of the last decades has caused a lot of damage in the companies and it is a bad breeding ground for the now demanded agile thinking and acting. Emotions and human interaction were ignored as irrelevant to the company and managers were chosen less for their social competence than for their expertise and experience. A “resonant” leadership style is rather the exception.

The consequence: Few superiors are aware of how strongly their behavior and their handling of emotions affect the employees and the entire culture in the company. For Goleman, managers who generate resonance are indispensable when it comes to the right environment for creativity and innovation. His ideal is the manager who can lead according to the situation: A manager who, depending on the situation, applies the right leadership style and can assess when dominance or cooperation is required, when it is time to listen or when instructions are to be given. And who, above all, never places strategy above people.

Emotionally agile has nothing to do with “soft”.

However, leading emotionally and agile does not mean that the manager has to be “soft” and excessively “nice”. They must naturally and consistently demand responsibility and performance and may criticize bad results. Because these were and remain leadership skills that contribute to the corporate culture and determine the long-term competitiveness of a company on the market.

But if a manager wants to be successful in the long term and create a healthy climate, he should immediately expand his emotional competence: He must be able to understand his own emotions and keep them under control, he must have empathy and be a relationship management professional. All these are not innate talents, but learned and trainable skills that can be learned during management training.

Rules of thumb for managers 4.0.

1. Only humans can lead humans

The relationship between employee and boss becomes even more important in the digital age, because no computer program or robot can replace an agile leader. Emphatic bosses provide their employees with impulses and ensure cohesion. The boss does not have to have the highest professional competence. His task is rather to form the right employees with specialist knowledge in teams, to further develop individual team members and to support the team as a whole. The principle of command has become obsolete: the manager meets his employees at eye level and discusses solution approaches and strategies in the team.

2. Creativity is not programmable

No innovations without creativity. And that’s why machines are out of the question as drivers of innovation, because they know and can only do zeros and ones. Only agile human leaders are able to provide the right “spirit”, promote team spirit and create an environment.

3. Mechanization demands more emotional intelligence

The further the technology advances, the more important personal contact with each other becomes, which stands in the way of an emotionless world. That’s why leaders are needed who can be experienced as human beings instead of hiding out in their offices and communicating exclusively with employees via e-mail.

4. To give orientation and to convey meaning

The more complex the work requirements become and the faster the pace of development advances, the more people and employees long for safety and orientation. As far as the young generation is concerned, there are also new requirements regarding motivation: salary and prestige are no longer as important for Generation Y as for previous generations. Meaningfulness, self-realization and a balanced work-life balance are the focus of today’s top performers.

5. Nothing works without networking

Another important management task in times of digital transformation is networking. Executives 4.0 must promote and demand exchange across departments and locations. Because loners who “bunker” their knowledge and experience for themselves are no longer in demand. It is rather the “swarm intelligence” that secures the future of organizations and companies.

Published by Dave John

Decade of work experience in leadership consulting with strong focus on talent acquisition & assessment across different industries and geographies.

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