New management

Lead: The new world of work requires new management skills

Time to foster talent

What changed first: workplaces, bosses or employees? Change is taking place simultaneously at all these different levels, and this calls for a multi-layered paradigm shift among future managers:

a) From real to virtual: We’re social and cooperative beings by nature. Immersive on-screen collaboration from home isn’t exactly natural, but we can all adapt. Through clear communication, trust and commitment, working in virtual teams can quickly become second nature.

b) From work to meaning: Employees are looking for empathy, self-awareness about their personal impact, appreciation of individual team members, charisma and inspiration, as well as a harmonious work-life balance. Dedicated, talented young people want to know what their employer stands for. The manager is now an ambassador of values and meaningful corporate culture, and needs to embrace all aspects of the team.

c) From instruction to inspiration: Employees want to be involved, to contribute creatively, to have their say and thus actively help shape the future of their company. They want not only regular, but constant feedback.

d) From security to risk: Today is the age of prototyping, testing, launching and learning. This means managers must work collaboratively with a co-creative approach and use technical tools such as robotics or artificial intelligence.

Squaring the circle

Vertical management structures with steep official channels where information only flows in one direction are a thing of the past. But one single organisational model is not the future either. Companies are evolving into network organisations with many small teams and shorter decisionmaking paths. There is a trend towards fluid forms of cooperation with project-like structures. For example, in the organisational model of holocracy, hierarchies, departments and titles disappear. Holocratic enterprises are organised in circles representing projects, departments and business areas. They pool tasks into roles and assign several roles to each employee.

Transforming leadership

With COVID-19, we are living through a period of disruption unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced before. Virtual working is a significant adjustment for many organisations and requires transformative leadership skills and new management models. As companies review their operating model and post-COVID-19 strategy, employees need to know the clear rules of the game and the boundaries in which they can freely operate. In such a new world, managers become coaches who motivate, convey meaning, allow mistakes to be made, instil confidence and focus on the team.

People leading people

Despite digital tools, behaviour and skills are becoming increasingly important. Leaders have an opportunity to create a positive working environment that enables everyone to contribute to conversations, team up, develop and freely share new ideas. In empowered leadership, managers give their employees greater scope for crea­tivity, action and decision-making. Inspiring leadership means that managers increasingly act as role models, paint a vision of the future, encourage their employees to be creative and foster individual development. Responsibility is not only borne by the boss, but by the whole team (shared leadership). In the 360° Leadership model, the successful leader of the future is a transformational leader who takes change on board.

“Inspiring leadership means that managers increasingly act as role models.”

Culture with performance

72% of C-level managers worldwide consider corporate culture to be the main reason for employees joining a company.5 Innovative leaders should establish values and cultural rules that follow a start-up logic. In other words, being creative and daring, making mistakes, and learning from mistakes are allowed and create a new mechanism for success. Companies with an inspiring management culture based on self-responsibility have a proven track record of higher productivity, stronger performance indicators and a more pleasant working atmosphere.

1   “Global Culture Survey”, Strategy&, 2018

Control is good, but trust is better

People today place their trust on the basis of two criteria: the keeping of promises and (ethically) correct behaviour. Ethical factors such as integrity, reliability and determination drive 76% of the trust capital of companies.6 The emergence of social media platforms has shifted people’s trust from a top-down orientation to a horizontal orientation in favour of peers. In a turbulent world, people see their employer as a peer. So anyone who wants to be trusted in an executive role must take the lead in times of change, position themselves clearly on key issues, show themselves in public, speak the language of the employees, make fact-based decisions, communicate regularly and exemplify the company’s values.

2   “Edelman Trust Barometer”, Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, Inc., 2020