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Leadership 4.0 in the “Digital Age”

I work with many outstanding leaders with extraordinary competencies; they are brilliant people from whom I’ve learned a great deal. I am grateful and privileged to be able to work with people like this.

At times, this method is linked to the goal of achieving a Silicon Valley-style innovation speed.It’s important to recognize that these traits are not necessarily accompanied by the digitalisation of a company’s business model. Rather, we show how the application of new methods, tools, and leadership styles shift the way industries and companies operate. At Oxford Leadership we refer this to Leadership 4.0 and are currently conducting comprehensive research and studies about this subject, the project itself is named: “Redefining Leadership for the 4th Industrial Revolution” (read about it here: Living Research Project)

Change is past due In Microsoft’s “Work 4.0” study it was revealed that in general, the European leadership culture has been slow to recognise the needs of workers and address the challenges of the new information-centric world. Established managers, in particular, have difficulties rethinking their style of work.

What are the changes employees want to see?

  • 85% want better access to information
  • 85% want to make decisions in a more independent fashion
  • 84% want regular feedback from their superior
  • 71% want more flexibility in arranging their work and working hours

Address your challenges

The companies requesting consulting sessions on digital leadership are precisely the ones that have had complications. In the past, these organisations rejected these ideas outright or only partially executed flexible work, open social media usage, IT communication tools (e.g. Skype), SW-based rapid feedback loops, high transparency, or an open approach. According to TNS Infratest, only 19% of employees are permitted to work flexibly in terms of hours and location. That is a much smaller number based on our observations. In addition, only 20% of respondents say that they obtain faster feedback through the use of IT. Assumptions are made based on past business models, but the keys in Leadership 4.0 improve areas of past concerns to increase productivity and innovation at your company.

Change always begins with one’s own mind-set. As a leader, however, there are components you can execute with your team today.

Seven successful points to improve your organisation:

  • Abolish hierarchies to as great an extent as possible
  • Take the radical stance of making knowledge available in a transparent fashion throughout the organisation (and as a pioneer, it means breaking informal rules).
  • Create optimal conditions for cooperation and networking (e.g. approaching as many areas as possible in a “cross-” fashion: cross-divisional, cross-discipline, cross-hierarchy, etc.).
  • Be an open as well as visible role model for the values and approaches you wish to promote.
  • Delegate responsibility to your teams, thus enabling them to react more quickly to changes in the market.
  • Allow room for autonomous decisions to not only raise employee motivation, but also features a core aspect of Leadership 4.0.
  • Move from IQ to weQ by relinquishing control, placing more trust in the problem-solving abilities of your employees, and supporting the collective intelligence of the team.

Change the Game

The trend in the digital world is shifting from “IQ” to “weQ” – that is, to collaborating in highly networked organisations. Change management (whether focusing on digital transformation, embracing a new management culture, or developing a modern recruiting strategy) begins with a clear focus.

It is possible – and soon will practically be required – to incorporate new behaviors steered by wholly embraced values, using distributed authority as well as a collective focus. To remain successful in the years to come, review how you can implement benchmark standards so your teams will be able to rapidly respond to the disruptive industry environment in which we operate.

Christina Boesenberg

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