New Leadership is not just an empty phrase


"Nothing is as constant as change", as Heraclitus of Ephesus said in 535 - 475 B.C. Change has always existed. However, companies have been experiencing a profound transformation for many years and are confronted with increasingly complex environments, in the face of which competitiveness is becoming essential for survival. To ensure this, the corporate and leadership culture plays a central role.

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One of the most important lessons learned from the Corona pandemic: Cohesion within the company and a strong corporate culture contribute significantly to getting through a crisis well. The global pandemic has rapidly accelerated changes that are already underway. It is important to adapt and actively shape these changes. Corporate culture, leadership style and teamwork seem to be rather soft factors, but they are elementary for maintaining competitiveness because they bind people to the company and thus also their know-how, which is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

Above all, managers are challenged. The top-down principle - the management sets the guidelines, the team implements them - has had its day. Leadership in 2022 means: guiding, enabling, coaching.

"The top-down leadership principle no longer works because in the time of corona-induced lockdowns, employees were forced from one day to the next to work from their home offices in a more self-organised, self-determined and self-reliant way," says Jürgen Spegel, CHRO of the Haufe Group. "On the other hand, managers had to relinquish control and build trust from one moment to the next. This shook up conventional thought patterns."

Birte Hackenjos, CEO of Haufe Group has an advice for entrepreneurs in an article in WirtschaftsWoche 37: "Allow flexibility, trust your employees." A call that is lived reality at the Haufe Group. There, the responsibility for how colleagues want to work together - remotely or in the office - is delegated to the individual teams. As a result, this leads to a very high degree of flexibility for the employees, promotes self-determined work and offers a lot of creative freedom for the teams.

In theory, new requirements and expectations of managers have long been taught in seminars. Digitalisation is not the only thing that has changed the world of work; the younger generations also expect a different way of working together that is characterised by the opportunity to help shape things. In fact, many managers still belong to those who came into leading positions in the 1990s - and have therefore internalised other principles. Medium-sized companies in particular have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to leadership. In many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), "no corresponding corporate cultures are yet anchored that enable a new work (time) culture or a leadership culture geared towards reconciling work and private/family life", according to the working time study "(Arbeits)Zeit zu gestalten!" by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung from 2017.

There is no question that leadership is becoming even more demanding. Involving, motivating and supporting employees who work from home or hybrid offices requires special skills. This is one of the reasons why the Haufe Group is intensively involved in the leadership and organisation of teams. It is not only a matter of training and promoting its own managers, but also of developing solutions that enable customers to make their teams more successful and efficient.

This can be achieved, for example, with the Haufe Talent Software OKR (Objectives & Key Results). OKR is a management method to synchronise the goals of a company with those of teams and employees. Working with this method reveals the strengths of the teams and brings the weaknesses ruthlessly to light. The framework works if managers live it and apply the same standards to themselves as they do to the team. Those who engage with it gain an honest and authentic view of the organisation. The Haufe Talent Software, which will be launched in the summer of 2022, comes at the right time to show managers new ways and replace encrusted hierarchies, among many other aspects.  

Managers at all organisational levels must nevertheless be empowered for the new requirements, also with the help of software solutions. IT solutions can support this, but the decisive factor is the mindset. Andreas Plaul, CIO of Haufe Group explains:

"It is often neglected to bring middle management along. Numerous studies show that this is precisely where a high braking or accelerating effect for changes in the company lies."

In fact, permanent leadership at a distance often means redefining one's own role for team and division leaders: Giving up control and building trust in the employees' own responsibility. Andreas Plaul is certain that this requires a new way of thinking, a different attitude and, above all, the continuous development of one's own leadership style.

This includes: self-reflection, relinquishing decision-making power, involving employees, but also clear communication and transparency. Especially in times of crisis, it is important to address ambiguities and disagreements early, clearly and appreciatively. This curbs smouldering conflicts, but above all gives employees a feeling of predictability, reliability and security. In uncertain times that mean change, this is elementary for motivation and team spirit.

Unfortunately, there is a significant gap between expectations and reality. In the Haufe Group study "Arbeitswelt der Zukunft im Mittelstand" (Working World of the Future in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses) from May 2022, 70 per cent of all managers are in favour of working from home, but only 9 per cent of all respondents perceive a change towards a more cooperative management style. This gap needs to be closed.

"With the Haufe Academy, we have learning in our DNA and are a constantly learning organisation," says Jürgen Spegel. "The high willingness to develop, to admit mistakes and to learn from them helps us in the Haufe Group to rethink, practice and constantly develop leadership, among many other topics."

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