A thought on modern leadership in the digital age

, 2 min read

How can we take a modern approach to team leadership in our digital age?

I discussed this question with Prof. Christopher Stehr and Hannes Goth of Polymundo during our last meeting in Germany.

In its essence, the notion of “leadership” remains largely unchanged: it means inspiring, motivating and supporting a team on its way to a common goal.

The WHAT, then, has barely changed.

The HOW, on the other hand, is barely recognizable.

The last word is left behind – thankfully.

For the longest time, executives – and C-level executives, in particular – used to have the “last word” in many organizations. Decisions could be and, routinely, were made single-handedly by one individual in charge, even if their entire team disagreed.

This approach is nearing its well-deserved end. And it is about time: authoritarian styles of leadership completely fail to meet modern business requirements.

The social standards of corporate life have changed dramatically over the past years. This is not least due to the demographic shift that has taken place within organizations: the Millennials (or Generation Y) continue their unstoppable advance. In 2020, they will make up half of all employees. In 2025, they will be 75%.

Anyone who has worked with start-up teams or been involved in projects relating to the digital transformation will know what I mean when I say:

professionalism and a laid-back attitude are not mutually exclusive. Kindness does not equal weakness. And not only does enthusiasm for genuine cooperation lead to a very special team spirit, it also produces excellent results.

Questioning your own leadership strategy is a worthwhile endeavor. After all, one thing has not changed in our digital age: the necessity of winning over the best talents and keeping them around.

Modern leaders are coaches rather than sacrosanct experts

I especially like the view put forward by Chris and Hannes: top executives should give up their role of the ultimate experts. Instead, they should consider themselves “instruments” working for the benefit of the team and the shared goal.

My personal conviction is based on this very notion:

modern leaders are enables and socializers. They inspire, they are open towards opinions and views from all stakeholders, and they lead with a great deal of authenticity. They recruit experts for their teams, give them autonomy, and share their own expertise and experience.

And …

they NEVER lead based on their title alone.

In our digital age, what is left of the authoritarian style of the past decades?

Not a lot – hopefully. 😉

Image source: Prof. Christopher Stehr