Leadership 4.0: Competencies for the new world of work

Führung 4.0: Kompetenzen für die neue Arbeitswelt

What modern leadership must – and can – achieve

The digital transformation and a fundamental change in values in today’s society create completely new working environments with changed conditions, requirements – and employee demands. If you want to make the working world 4.0 successful and profitable, you have to be able to react to the challenges with an adapted employee management 4.0. Only then can innovations be driven forward, employees’ resources recognized and promoted and companies profit from the opportunities of change. And last but not least, leadership 4.0 is the key to recruiting and exploiting the potential of sought-after employees such as the Digital Natives.

Leadership 4.0:  Where does the term come from?

Industry 4.0 is currently being created…

Society, the economy and the world of work are today at the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution: Industry 4.0, which is based on digital transformation. Through intelligent and digital networking, not only people communicate with each other, but also with machines, plants and products – and these in turn also with each other. This is revolutionizing process and production procedures.

….which creates a working world 4.0…

Logically, these changes must also change working methods, workflows and workplaces: The working world 4.0 adapts to the new conditions and requirements. It is also influenced by social megatrends: globalisation and migration as well as the diversity associated with them and gender equality. And finally, a general change in values that places individualisation, self-realisation and participation at the centre of social demands.

…which requires a new employee management 4.0

Digital transformation and changing social demands consequently redefine what makes well done work economic – and how work is experienced as good in human terms. And this changes the required competence profile of managers 4.0: They must be technically and digitally skilled enough to enable, organize and control work 4.0. And they are also so emotionally and psychologically competent that they support the employee 4.0 according to his requirements and enable him individually to participate in optimal processes.

What makes Leadership 4.0 different?

Empowerment: Empowering employees instead of exercising power

Leadership 4.0 means above all to turn power into empowerment. Unilateral power relations in which commands are distributed hierarchically from top to bottom give way to a new structure: responsibility is given and the team is empowered to determine the necessary to-dos to solve a task itself – and also how or from where they can be implemented.

Clarity: manage transparently instead of instructing

Leadership 4.0 must ensure that every employee has internalized the mission: Which concrete goal is to be achieved? The vision must also be clear: What will this bring, how will we benefit from it? And the path must be defined: What steps are necessary to achieve the goal, how can they be implemented? This is the only way for the team to work independently without constantly having to ask the management questions. And to recognize the importance of one’s own performance instead of just completing instructions.

Participation: Allow processes to be designed instead of predefining them

Leadership 4.0 must be open to letting the team participate in decisions instead of leaving them to a small team of leaders. It must let employees help shape the processes for solutions and innovations right from the start. To this end, everyone should be able to contribute their expert opinions – this is where the diversity of diverse teams can be used efficiently. Then the team must be enabled to use its competencies and strengths independently and effectively to achieve the goal. To do so, it must also have a say: What are the ideal (technical) means, how can the team be put together efficiently, what freedom is necessary.

Trust: Rely on the team instead of controlling

Trustful leadership at eye level with employees is one of the core competencies of a manager 4.0: 1. The leadership must be able to trust that the team really has the necessary competencies for the respective mission. That 2. the democratically rather than hierarchically chosen path is the optimal one. And 3. that all employees constantly work to the best of their knowledge and belief to fulfil the vision. Real self-responsibility and self-determination is not possible with constant monitoring by the manager – and in times of virtually networked teams of partially location-independent employees, it can no longer even afford it.

Organization: planning in projects instead of in process chains

Management 4.0 must be open and capable of replacing outdated process chains and classic line organization with lengthy decision-making processes with open project management. To achieve this, it has to constantly put together new, perfectly fitting teams: from different departments and specialist areas – as well as from employees from other locations and external experts. In addition, virtual networking instead of physically close cooperation is often mandatory. This, too, creates a new competence requirement for managers 4.0: they must know and use every necessary media and digital technology and be able to let everyone participate in it.

Communication: Moderating dialogues instead of talking in

The management of virtually networked teams and the remote control of projects via media such as chats, intranets, forums and video conferences also requires competent handling of a changed communication behaviour: Questions can remain open, conflicts and disagreements can no longer be clarified in a personal conversation. Leadership 4.0 must recognize at all times whether this hinders cooperation and the diversity of sustainable teams, and whether they can also moderate dialogues from a distance. To this end, it must establish a sustainable working relationship with the team members and facilitate and promote this within the team. This, too, is one of the core competencies of modern management: to establish an open, respectful and appreciative culture of togetherness with which all employees identify – and to exemplify this culture authentically.

About Boris Kasper

Boris KasperBoris Kasper is a graduate psychologist and advises companies on conflict resolution and management as well as "emotional intelligence" in the working environment.