Fields of action

How leadership changes

The more successful leadership models of today no longer have their origins in international business schools, but in the social sphere. Because the conditions of leadership within organizations converge with the conditions that apply outside the organizations, in society, it is worth taking a look at the models tested here.

A new, different kind of leadership has become an essential aspect of the organization of the common good at many societal levels. Through them, interest groups form, they create social added value. In the computerized and networked society, many people now experience daily what the altered constellations of social power of organization mean in real terms: individual groups can easily override the interests of powerful actors and even become a powerful unit through the mobilization effect. Thus, leadership becomes the organization of future-oriented and goal-oriented negotiation processes, which can now take place everywhere. From this perspective, the sustainable design of the family system is a management task.

If one restricts one’s gaze to the (predominantly organizational and organizational) leadership research, we find that in recent decades, these have developed along the lines of “Great Man Theories”, behavioral and transformation-oriented leadership concepts towards more communication and system-oriented approaches It has often been complained that concentration on the person of the leader has led to a neglect of the equally relevant surrounding leadership system, including the lived leadership culture.8 But they are all subject to the error of a fundamental “controllability” from above.

The question of how an organization can be managed under the changed conditions is closely linked to the idea of how a society can be steered accordingly in its time and self-image. Looking through the years at the organization theory and in their derivation of the respective understanding of leadership, they refer to conceptions of political systems on social forms to educational theories and theories that occur in contemporary history parallel. So it is not surprising that in the 1970s authoritarian leadership styles their power was denied and dedicated to the organization as an independent whole.

Communication also attracted new attention in the 1970s – on the one hand because office and administrative work is increasing and on the other because society is differentiated, emancipated and demands more participation. Decisions and facts are discussed publicly. Dull authority thinking and old dependencies are called into question. Systemic leadership and organizational theories that emerge during this period deny the leader the supremacy and explain the organization’s overall structure as an autonomous organism. With her often uncontrollable communication processes, she is now jointly responsible for the success or failure of the company. With the transfer of the leader to the communication (in) of the organization, the increased complexity is taken into account for the first time.

Unfortunately, these control attempts of systemic organization in practice often entail an increased effort due to the organizationally slowing down of leadership and decision-making processes. This is particularly unfortunate, since the focus on market and customer needs requires ever faster adjustments to the processes. Decentralized, customer-oriented structures enable teams to assume more responsibility, self-organization and decision-making abilities.

The current task of leadership is to initiate, adapt and exemplify the transition to a flexible and networked work culture. The main difficulty lies not in a technical adjustment, but in setting the course for cultural acceptance.

In practice, executives are already reacting to the changed conditions today. The reaction patterns are varied. They range from the effort to understand and act as postheroic designers, to inadequate relapses into traditional but inherited patterns of behavior. Hereof, a series of empirical studies on satisfaction with the behavior of the leading elites in Germany give eloquent testimony.

The clash of generations

Tomorrow’s executives agree with today’s decisions that they work hard, but consider it risk averse and overly cautious about their status. This was the result of the Global Perspectives Barometer 2014 of the St. Gallen Symposium in cooperation with the GfK Verein. A large number of respondents from 107 countries would like more strategic vision and social responsibility in their decisions in politics and business.

The study is not a blanket statement with the older generation, it reads more like a coaching interview for the leadership elite: often it is about perceived leadership failure of current executives. Examples and metaphors are used to criticize incorrect strategic priorities, poor personnel development, artisanal mistakes and unsustainable behavior, as well as concrete recommendations for action.

This critical view of the Leaders of Tomorrow is also reflected in the fact that 61 percent of respondents said governments and public administrations “often” fail in their decisions on key issues, and entrepreneurs and managers are in a barely better light: nearly halfway through their decisions are often wrong.