We work in a kind of permanent beta phase. According to the Kienbaum New Work Pulse Check 2017, 74% of German companies have the topic "future of work" on their agendas. This is about home office options and intelligent technologies, of course, but unfortunately in many companies it stops there.
New work is more about a fundamental change in the world of work for all businesses–and this requires more from companies and leaders than small, ad-hoc adjustments in our daily work routine. In order to master the challenges of digitalization, bosses must become digital leaders.
Digital Transformation Requires Digital Leaders
The phrase "digital leadership" does not simply represent a tech-focused leadership style. It describes a new leadership culture that drives digital transformation. For a digital leader, it's about coaching more than leading, enabling more than determining, and controlling more processes than tasks.
How leaders shape this in concrete terms can look very different. There’s no blueprint. On my team, for example, we have a culture of trust and openness, and, at the same time, appreciate a new understanding of work, emancipated from place and time. Only in decentralized structures with agile teams, in which employees act independently, can we master change, accelerate decisions, and drive forward the necessary innovations.
Buzzwords Aside: Leaders Must Meet The Challenge
Terms such as "leadership 4.0," the aforementioned "digital leadership," and "new leadership" already show that things are changing at the management level. Respondents to the Kienbaum study agree, with 78% who said they see management as responsible for the "implementation of new work." This presents many managers with new challenges: Rigid hierarchies, control, and traditional knowledge of power can no longer meet the demands of a modern, accelerated working world.
"Superiors," in the truest sense of the word, have long been obsolete. The logical consequence: Managers have to completely redefine themselves. This is exactly where digital leadership comes into play.
A New Management Culture
Leadership means living and leading. I am convinced that in times of change, a return to the classic virtues of leadership is necessary: listening, moderating, and bringing people together. Modern working practices mean that, increasingly, employees work on diverse project teams. They sit distributed in different places and communicate via different channels. It’s the task of managers to keep these teams together and to create a (virtual) space in which employees can shape their own work without fear of mistakes and develop their potential freely.
Flexibility, openness, and an affinity for smart tools, today and in the future, are, therefore, essential qualities for managers. Digital leaders need to take a bold lead, develop their own style and brand to ultimately move the team forward.
Location-Independent Management: Is It Really Possible?
Working independently of place and time, when it suits you, is an attractive prospect for most employees. But what does this actually mean for team leadership? Leading when and where you want doesn't sound quite as feasible. But, in my view, facilitating this change in practices is an essential part of the changing world of work. Even an executive no longer has to shine in person but rather can learn to lead the team from everywhere.
Digital leadership is, above all, a cultural issue. Managers who want to successfully master digital transformation need to reposition their entire mindset and work on a digital corporate culture.
Digital transformation is not a process that can be completed or a chapter that can be closed. This also applies to the understanding of leadership: What works today will not necessarily be the right solution tomorrow. That’s why it’s important that digital leaders question themselves and cultivate an open culture of feedback up and down the staff structure. Yes, it can hurt sometimes, but the progress you can achieve makes it all worthwhile.