Agile leadership in New Work – The role of leadership must be rethought for the near future.

Organisations have to stand the tests of globalisation, digital transformation and the competition for talents in order to be able to survive. At a social and cultural level, the challenge is to employ human resources more for what they can do best and in the most meaningful manner: finding solutions to problems, developing business models, creating added value for customer requirements and producing innovations. New Work puts the spotlight on people and agile working. With this logic, which is also more in line with the younger generation’s requirements, the leadership role and attitude will already have to be radically rethought for the near future. What does that mean?

Yesterday: the best professional – tomorrow: coach, enabler and visionary

Tomorrow’s leaders are no longer the best professionals. They will encourage their team members to work in a spirit of personal responsibility, provide guidance and establish a framework in which employees make good decisions and are able to pursue their professional and social development on a continual basis themselves. Since the organisation’s knowledge will now be rooted at the operative level to a greater extent, leaders will have to ensure that all the organisation members’ activities and efforts are more self-organised while still being consistently geared to a common purpose. Leadership will be exercised through meaning, purpose and vision.

Yesterday: perfecting your own department – tomorrow: interdepartmental cooperation and moderation of coordination processes

The discovery that the best possible outcome for customers can only be achieved if knowledge is repeatedly concentrated and interlinked, will require a conscious break-up of silos and the encouragement of interconnected cooperation. In future, leaders will increasingly moderate the complex coordination and decision-making processes between knowledgeable employees who assume personal responsibility.

Yesterday: freeing ourselves of contradiction – tomorrow: learning to deal with contradictions

Leaders of tomorrow will no longer blank out contradictions but will acknowledge them as real constituents of reality in decision-making processes. However, they will only be able to do so with the pronounced ability to deal with conflicts – also in virtual space – and, in the face of those contradictions, by continually involving those concerned in renewed negotiations towards the best possible solution.

Yesterday: decisions on the basis of extensive knowledge and of reliability – tomorrow: rapid decisions with a high degree of ambiguity and entrepreneurship

In the VUCA world, it is increasingly speed that is gaining the upper hand. Instead of conducting further analyses, leaders will be well advised to invest the little time and energy available in prototypes and to proceed in a more agile manner. This will necessitate them engaging in uncertainties, and like an entrepreneur trying out new things and learning from mistakes. The corona time reveals this strikingly. Possibly the most important point is to try out new things quickly, learn from mistakes and be constantly engaged in optimisation.

A central competence needed to meet the above-mentioned requirements is the capacity for self-reflection and for finding an appropriate role in self-organising teams.