Partner Perspectives: Management Versus Leadership

In times of Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, etc., managers need more than ever before to be adaptable, open to change in leadership culture, and break with old patterns if they are to succeed as leaders.

Leadership Magazin, Expertenforum, no 1/2, January/February 2018

With Günther Tengel, Managing Partner of Amrop Jenewein in Austria.

Point of View

The next 15 years will change our society and with it all the organizations that work in it more quickly and comprehensively than the first industrial revolutions ever did. As soon as we escaped the wildfire of the financial crisis, we were in the middle of a revolution. Digitization transforms most value chains at a speed never thought possible. Every day, we talk about Big Data, Smart Factory, the Internet of Things, and disruption. 70 % of the world's leading companies will no longer exist in their current form in 15 years.

We are at the portals of hypercompetition, struck down in all corners by the transparency of social media. And in parts of Europe, a new generation is emerging that is breaking away from our benchmarks.

How can managers change their market in this environment?  Or are markets gradually changing managers? Is this tsunami of change even manageable? How do we, as executives, deal with these processes?

According to a study by the INQA Forum, more than three-quarters of executives advocate a change in leadership culture, and, above all, significant changes in the way stakeholders cooperate. But changing management culture is one of the toughest tasks.

As the economist Keynes remarked decades ago: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas, as in escaping from the old ones.” There’s a reason for that. To date, most leadership has been guided by numbers, facts and plans. We all know that, by the end of the first quarter of the year, at the latest, many of the numbers will be discarded. Nevertheless, they are further homogenized, trimmed for efficiency.

How should we master such uncertainty and unpredictability? How do we promote cooperation in the midst of competition? How do we share knowledge in order to increase it? Requirements for a modern executive and culture could be:

  • Enable flexibility and diversity.
  • Promote network structures and collective intelligence.
  • Break down hierarchies and create mobility.
  • Make appreciation a noticeable motivation.

Designing uncertainty and unpredictability - and exactly that seems to be our future – is limited only by “being managed.” Designing our future requires leadership. This implies opinion, attitude, and values. Leadership requires trust. Trust in yourself and others. Trust must be earned. Management is implied and required. Leadership – real leadership - requires competence, empathy, reflection, and integrity.

Leadership is underestimated. If only the numbers add up. And at some point, nothing does. Leadership is a high-wire act between stability and dynamics, a trapeze act between feasibility and powerlessness. We will do our job of reorganizing, we will adapt as needed to redefine collaborations. We will put together project and team structures. We will have to face the ongoing challenge of onboarding, integration, and team building. We will have to inject the algorithms with the right “spirit.” We will no longer be able to administer and manage our environment - we will have to shape and change it as a leader.

And we all should do EVERYTHING to win the right talent with the right attitude for us. The ones with a “spark in their eyes!”