New Leadership: How modern leadership styles enrich the working world
reading time: ca. 6 minutes
- Traditional leadership styles don't meet the challenges of the modern working world any longer. Instead, leadership styles that focus on cooperation, empowerment and the distribution of responsibility are moving into the spotlight.
- These include, for example, Empowering Leadership, Shared Leadership, and Inspirational Leadership. The greatest benefits of these leadership styles are motivation, creativity, and innovation, to name a few.
- The approach of these leadership styles is to empower and motivate employees so that they independently pursue goals and find their way to achieve them.
- To introduce a different leadership style and create the right environment for it, check out our tips.
The way of working has changed dramatically over the last decades. Classical leadership methods are no longer up-to-date – instead, new leadership styles and leader competencies are becoming relevant. In the age of New Work, mobile working, and digitalisation, new leadership focuses on empowerment and personal responsibility instead of “work to rule”.
Top-down orders, strict hierarchies, and control? That is history. In the modern and digital working world, leadership is completely different. The leaders of the future are more "coach" than "boss". They shall inspire, advise, and support instead of command.
In a working world characterised by digitalisation, globalisation, and mobility, many old models are no longer applicable. Communication takes place anytime and anywhere. Especially young people expect a high degree of flexibility in terms of working hours and locations. Home office and remote work are no longer benefits, but basic requirements imposed on companies.
It is no surprise that the traditional way of leadership has had its day – and is replaced by new, adapted leadership styles such as Shared Leadership or Empowering Leadership.
The precondition for New Work
The digitalisation of the working world and changing needs of younger generations on the labour market have created a modern working environment characterised by personal responsibility, independence, and mobility – in short: New Work.
Ever since the pandemic, young people are seeing mobile working and home office as a must-have potential employers need to offer. And Generation Y and Generation Z greatly value self-determined work and a fulfilling job.
To make this form of New Work possible at all, new leadership methods are necessary. Only new management styles can create a working culture in which New Work is practised.
Old vs. new leadership styles
The expectations of managers have changed dramatically. There is a major shift of thinking about power distribution, trust, and decision-making in companies. Interpersonal skills are becoming more important than technical know-how.
The influence of a leadership style on employee satisfaction is immense. Classical styles are rejected by young people, lead to high employee fluctuation and thus cause costs and a shortage of skilled workers in the company.
Today, we know that too much control doesn't leave much room for creativity, innovation, and growth. The more direction, the less initiative and motivation among employees.
While orders and supervision are demotivating, personal responsibility and visions can encourage top performance.
The traditional leadership styles include especially the authoritarian style. Here, typically top-level management makes the decisions and employees merely carry out instructions. Steep hierarchies create distance so that there is little trust between managers and teams.
This leads to little employee commitment and a "work to rule" attitude. In contrast, motivation and enthusiasm emerge from trust, empowerment, and participation.
What are the New Leadership styles?
There are plenty of modern leadership styles and methods that meet the requirements of the digital working world.
Which leadership style fits best depends on multiple factors: company type and size, corporate culture, existing infrastructure, and – above all – personality and competencies of the manager and his or her employees.
What defines modern leadership?
Modern leadership must address, above all, the changing needs of the younger generations and today's working environment, which is characterised by digital infrastructure, mobile work, and transparent communication.
Modern leadership styles therefore include different approaches and aspects:
- Innovative: A modern environment needs new ideas. Leaders should promote innovation, encourage employees' inventiveness, and focus on a shared vision.
- Agile: Leadership must be able to adapt to the fast-changing circumstances of the working world and react promptly, for example by changing goals or frameworks.
- Networked: Nowadays, the challenge is to work together not only on-site, but also with virtual teams and digital tools – while still strengthening team spirit.
- Situational: Leadership is not static. Instead, it must be adapted to each employee. Depending on the situation, area of responsibility, and competencies of an employee, it is important to find appropriate forms of guidance and support.
- Empathic: Modern leadership emphasises interpersonal contact, support, and assistance. The goal is to improve the well-being of employees and to build good relationships with each other.
- Participative: Leaders see themselves as part of the team – not only in planning, but also in the practical execution of tasks. Cooperation happens at eye level and with mutual trust.
- Integrative: Feedback and opinions from staff are taken seriously. They are actively incorporated into the company's goals.
Advantages of New Leadership
Already in 2018, a Harvard study described the positive effects of empowering leadership in companies. Data from over 30,000 employees from 30 countries were analysed.
The results clearly demonstrated the positive influence on creativity, social behaviour, happiness and, above all, the performance and commitment of employees.
Since then, a lot has happened in terms of New Work and leadership. More and more companies are adopting the approaches of modern leadership styles and benefit from many advantages:
- Personal responsibility and self-determined work are promoted.
- There is less workload for managers. They have more time for other tasks, for example process optimisation or organisation.
- Motivation, productivity, and creativity of employees are improved.
- At the same time, employee happiness, loyalty to the company, and identification with corporate values also increase.
- Teams achieve better results and deliver higher output.
- Collaborative successes and shared leadership create strong team spirit.
- The strengths and know-how of different personalities in the team are used.
- The company becomes attractive to young talents in the labour market. That makes it easier to recruit new employees.
Leadership is constantly changing. And this is quite necessary because the working world and its frameworks are changing as well. What is innovative today will be standard tomorrow and outdated the day after.
That is why flexibility and a high degree of innovation are important. Managers must constantly rethink and adapt to changing needs and new challenges.
It is not only Generation Z that places high demands on companies – in a few years, the first members of the new Generation Alpha will enter the labour market. At present, we can only speculate what exactly will be important to them regarding their jobs.
Independence and flexibility are likely to expand even more. Modern managers will become "enablers" – instead of setting guidelines or making decisions, they will ensure that all resources and frameworks are in place.
The fact is: Future leadership is characterised by more and more cooperation, communication, and equality.