Leadership needs a new blueprint


When the focus is really on employees, everything revolves around empowerment. The following article explains what new style of leadership is needed for the working world of the future and under what conditions leadership becomes empowerment.

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When a business trip is followed by a flood of forms, firmly prescribed operating procedures slow down work and nine-to-five becomes the be-all and end-all of everyday life: It is not only employees who despair of seemingly unchangeable, bureaucratic structures in their professional lives. Companies also feel increasingly paralysed when everything is done by the book. What such organisations need is a new blueprint.

As an election worker counting thousands of ballots at the federal election. Selling drinks and snacks at the local football club's junior tournament. Guiding one's own family through stressful everyday life. In their private lives, people are effective in very different ways every day. In voluntary work, in clubs and in the family. The situation is often quite different at their workplace, which many people treat as a separate sphere in their lives. What circumstances lead to such a double life? And how do employees develop their potential at work as well as in their free time?

Those who do not fit are made to fit

The fault lies not in the individuals themselves, but in the structures in which they operate. Whether rigid working time regulations or strictly prescribed work processes: bureaucratic systems are the result of decades of efforts to reduce complexity in the company and make processes more efficient. What was the ideal answer to problems 40 years ago is becoming a problem itself today. Many organisations squeeze people into bureaucratic structures in which they have to function as the structures dictate. They do not see people as self-reliant, capable individuals. Those who do not fit into the system are made to fit.  

In the long run, this leads to stagnation, passivity and work by the book.

Remaining in bureaucratic structures has fatal consequences for the work in the company. In the long run, it leads to stagnation, passivity and work by the book. If you are not allowed to change anything, you cannot change anything. Those who are not allowed to speak up make themselves small and shirk responsibility. Those who have to act according to instructions only do what they are told to do and no more. Suppressed employees usually have a hard time with transformative and innovative developments in the organisation. Or worse: they even block the introduction of new processes, tools and methods. And thus they hinder the progress of the entire company.

The liberation from the shackles

In such an atmosphere, the search for progressive togetherness and the implementation of common goals turn out to be hard work. A company can only free itself from this rut if it releases people's potential and strengthens their self-confidence. It is about offering them more freedom and increasing their scope for action. If you want to raise the potential of employees, you have to "free them from the shackles", says Oliver Sowa, Managing Director of the Beutlhauser Group in an interview on New Management. These shackles are everywhere where processes go on long and unchallenged.

The mission is clarification

Not only digitise paper-intensive processes, but break them down to a lean level. Support workers' needs instead of just accommodating them. Encourage work with alternative solutions and digital tools: Companies can create a supportive environment for their employees where they feel encouraged to find their own role, make empowered decisions and take responsibility for their actions. The mission is education. Companies need a new blueprint for this.

The new blueprint

In bureaucracy, all power emanates from the ruling structures as well as from the people who control these structures. Meanwhile, many companies see their workers differently, not as instruments, as resources with labour contracts who implement products and services or serve the organisation. To create a blueprint that meets people and their needs, some companies are removing the stultifying shackles and focus on shared success. They put people at the centre of the organisation.

The most important tool is the organisation itself.

Management consultants Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini provide a strong impetus with the concept of so-called humanocracy - the rule of the people (read more here). According to them, the most important instrument is the organisation itself. As a framework in which employees can improve their lives and the lives of others. Instead of asking their employees what they can do for the organisation, "humanocratic" companies ask: What can we do to help people be their best?

From administrators to creators

The people-oriented organisation is all about empowerment, enabling and performance. By handing over some of their power and responsibility, leaders not only break down inhibiting structures. They also create new structures that promote performance and challenge employees. It is about people using their abilities, finding new solutions to challenges and thus increasing customer value and company success. Away from managing, towards shaping.


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