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Things have got to change. The classic management structures no longer reflect the zeitgeist. For years now, one new management model has been chasing the next, countless “recommendations” are being made as to how an ideal manager should be “knitted” and there are also no shortages of alternative solutions at organizational level. More self-responsibility and self-efficacy is the credo. More self-leadership, in other words.

But how does leadership lead to a leader-shift?

It’s up to the executives…

Currently, in times of  home office and emerging smart work, they are once again under real criticism, the managers. They cannot allow a liberalisation of the world of work. And they fear an erosion of power and influence. They do not know how to manage their team remotely. Managers simply want to have everything under control. In general, they do not trust. And the current situation makes this really clear.

So say the statements of countless articles, studies and voices of the public. And yes, this certainly applies to some managers as well.

At the moment, it is also time to break the lance for the “entire population of managers”. Many representatives I have met in my role as a coach over the past years have their hearts in the right place. And a mindset that deserves recognition. Many have approached their task with idealism and a large number of innovative ideas. They have put a lot of strength and energy into their role. Many have braced themselves against windmills. And some have also failed because of it. Or have decided to go into adaptation in order to “survive” in the system. Which is also simply human.

Or the organizations …

It is worth taking a look at this very system or organization or company. Although “purpose” and “self-organization“, “agility” and “flat hierarchies” are on everyone’s lips, we are still far from realizing these ideas. Home office – yes of course, this is the new work format that will have to be taken into account more and more in the future. And Scrum & Co – has already been implemented where it makes sense.

However, most organizations are still classically in silos organized and the executive is more the manager than the leader. He or she is measured by numbers and results. Perhaps a human-KPI will also play a role at times. One under 10. The team is just a side issue. And for the individual there is the annual meeting. Personal aspects can be discussed there. If it weren’t for these annoying employee surveys and mood barometers, everything would actually be fine.

Especially since almost all of the organization’s managers have already completed the workshop series on “New Leadership”, “Agile Methods” and not to forget “Digital Transformation”. So now, anyone should be able to lead in the zeitgeist and according to the current conditions.

And the employees…

Let’s assume that we would change this term to “co-creators”. That would make a huge difference. First of all, the term “work” per se is not really the “burner”. And secondly, the question of how “added value” will be created in companies in the future is exactly that. It Is “worked off” or “co-created”.

This is primarily a mindset question again, which then triggers consistent follow-up considerations.

If one thinks of this in “work” and thus in a Tayloristic world view, there may be good reasons for structuring, placing orders and controlling. For those concerned, this is then “annoying”, often stressful and limited but also familiar and within “9 to 5” and their own “comfort zone” (if one can speak of comfort here).

One thinks that in “creation” then everything changes. First the own inner attitude. Then you have to change to selfresponsibility, self-expression and self-management. Then there is no one left to say where things go, that is taken over by oneself. And then it is presented and discussed in dialogue. Then mistakes are on the agenda and failure becomes an everyday part of your own actions. Then freedom becomes tangible. And consequence too. Then the comfort zone is shifted towards the growth zone.

From Leadership to Leader-shift

Assuming we are serious about organizational and leadership change – which is probably essential – it would be advisable to use the window of opportunity opened by COVID 19 to implement the change. Then it would make sense to consistently pursue the path we have taken toward liberalizing “work”.

However, a few essential aspects should not be overlooked. The mindset-shift must accompany the structural change. It is not enough to implement “Smart Work”. The people in the organisation should also be willing and able to act as “co-creators”. Their contribution would be to take over self-management in their professional activities and thus contribute their part to the leader-shift. This is something that first needs to be learned.

Parallel to this, managers would have the task of enabling more people to take the step out of the comfort zone and into the learning and growth zone. To trust them, to encourage them, to accompany them, to create a suitable framework, but also to demand the shift again and again. This is certainly for one or the other a sustainable change of his or her own role. And that also needs support, e.g. through coaching.

Above all, however, recognition within the own organisation. If leadership performance continues to be measured according to the classic model and only with the previous KPIs, this will not work.

Instead, there should be a clear separation between added value and results (management) and the empowerment and effectiveness of the individual (leadership).

Here, the Shared LeaderShift model is recommended as a pragmatic approach.

Leadership is needed for the change from leadership to leadership shift. On the way to an increasingly self-organizing system in which human, especially emotional and creative competence, as well as artificial intelligence co-create and shape the future.

Learning leadership – is that possible? Do we need it? Does it still fit in with the times? Does it make sense?

Let’s assume so, how could it look like then?

Surely the times of standardized management curricula lasting several weeks are over. Regardless of whether they are conducted in St. Gallen, at the Hernstein Institute or in in-house qualification programs. The requirements and expectations of customers have changed. Learning is different today and so is networking.

The fact that it works differently and is successful from the customer’s “executive” perspective is shown by the feedback of a pilot group of a customer’s holistically designed leadership and management development program. This group recently completed their two-year Learning Journey with a graduation. And what the participants reported in the retrospective suggests that they obviously did a lot right.

An impressive retrospective

The participants of the pilot group were simply fantastic in their ability to create a retrospective of their learning journey as individuals and as a group.

They expressed the digital competence they had developed in the meantime by making a film. Not only did the film highlight the various stages of the learner and Learning Journey, but the participants’ employees and superiors were also asked to show up in front of the camera to present their view of the impact of the qualification on the participants and their own organisation. By the way, no script had been written. Rather, this work was created in a creative collaboration in several iterations. An example of how the learning content on the topic of “new work” and “agile formats” came to life.

Afterwards, they arranged all participants in a “circle”, brought a (self-made) ball into play and let everyone have their say: The participants of the pilot group as well as the coaches and program managers and guests who had come to hear the learnings. Three questions provided the structure. The participants set the framework, initiated the process and then handed it over to self-organisation. This unit was prepared in peer groups and then collaboratively brought into the entire learning group without external facilitator. They already have the methodological and the social competence to turn those affected into participants.

Encouraging feedback

The feedback from the film and the following circle was inspiring and touching in many ways. In an unusual depth, people spoke openly about their own development. Many thanks were expressed for the many experiences and the lessons learned. There was talk of experienced and practiced appreciation. Acknowledgement of the progress made in building up competence in oneself and in others could be heard. The positive experience of cooperation and mutual support was especially emphasized. Examples of the sustainable effectiveness of qualification content in everyday life were mentioned. The weekly conference call set up in a peer group during the qualification trip was independently agreed upon as a regular call also beyond the qualification. This gave collegial consultation a space for sustainability. Learning in this new form received a certificate. This was combined with the request not to change anything, because learning makes sense and is effective in this way.

Learning leadership newly defined

How is this format designed to achieve such results and feedback from experienced managers?

On the one hand, it consistently follows the 70:20:10 approach, i.e. 70% of the qualification takes place at the workplace and by means of direct reference to the daily work routine. Here, virtual learning nuggets can also be consumed, which can be added to your own playlist according to individual needs. 20% of learning takes place in the community. Both in fixed peer groups and in the entire learning group. Routed via an exchange platform and supported by (video) calls. And 10% of the development takes place in face-to-face workshops. Particularly when the topics of person and behaviour are involved.

A transfer of the learning content into practice is consistently ensured with transfer tasks for the individual learner and in the virtual learner community. Often the learner’s work assignments also refer to their team or working environment. Here, primarily the long-term practical projects are to be seen. They demonstrate the business impact of the program and enable the development of competencies in (agile) project management.

Not to forget the highlight. Each participant is personally accompanied by a (virtual) coach. With this coach, individual concerns can be addressed. He/she also ensures that the participant always keeps the overview and direction in his/her largely self-organized learning journey.

Each participant has access to a comprehensive Wiki with in-depth content. Regular blogs help to ensure that the program always offers up-to-date content.

Learning leadership here means learning and iterating on the job. This starts with self-management, which is necessary for the program to come alive. After all, time for learning and development must be allowed by the participants themselves. This continues with the reflection on leadership in everyday work and the examination of the roles of “Manager & Leader” and their interaction. Leadership is also looked at from the future. This is where topics such as purpose, culture and new work come into play as well as new roles as change manager or enabler.

Then, there we are already talking about a Leader-Shift.

Redesigning leadership development.

That´s something we are good at.

Rethink leadership? Nowadays one often hears that leadership needs to be rethought. Why should we do that? Hasn’t been enough already thought about leadership, experimented enough, modelled enough? In the meantime, there is a multi-faceted multitude of new approaches to leadership, from Servant to Human, from Connected to Mindful Leadership. The idea of collegial leadership […]