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What it takes to be a 21st century leader

Posted in Articles

Supportive Leadership
This is a guest post by Bookboon author Günther Schust

1. The new dimension of leadership

Motivating staff is one of the classical management tasks. But “HOW” is undergoing change. Manager behaviour patterns of “prescribing” tasks are still very widespread. The effects of this are pointed out in most recent studies: in the long term this behaviour is demotivating and even makes people ill. However, a new self-confident generation of staff is growing up who need to be led effectively into the 21st century. This gives leadership a new dimension as it no longer lays down, restricts and checks numbers / results but initiates, offers situational support, identifies room to manoeuvre and promotes visions. This is called supportive leadership management.


2. Cooperative leadership

According to the study of Prof. Dr Holger Rust of the University of Hanover the culture of “number-oriented formalism” has failed. According to that, managers are not willing enough to learn, encourage staff too little and are not open and cooperative enough. “If you want to manage other people you must be able to manage yourself”, according to the thesis of Prof. Dr Lutz von Rosenstiel, LM University of Munich. However that only works if there are certain freedoms at work. This is what Rosenstiel says: “Of course there are rules that control us. If however a business was to act exclusively as is prescribed it would be out of business after a week.” Therefore the management in modern-thinking companies shares its power or responsibility with the key staff and stakeholders.

The 21st century manager must therefore communicate to staff about the cost-benefit ration of their work, their position and its results for the user (stakeholder). He or she must engage them in target setting and decision-making processes, help them in difficult situations / conflicts and support team work. It is essential in this that people can and want to achieve results. Constant learning from project tasks will suddenly become everybody’s goal as well as constantly learning from errors.


3. Motivation through agreed objectives

Target planning and agreement is a management instrument intended to help the member of staff and his line manager to recognise the core tasks of his area of work and to plan objectives jointly. In this process line manager and member of staff agree on a few, as a rule five, result-oriented clearly phrased objectives that are to be achieved as a priority in a planning period. An objective is result-oriented when the desired result is precisely described in its quantity and/or quality. E.g.: Market and customer-focused objectives, productivity objectives, business objectives, project objectives, area and staff-oriented objectives, etc.


4. Start delegating

All managers complain about lack of time. Many are justified as they have not appointed or promoted the right people or are not allowing them to develop their potential. Delegation is “all Greek” to them. More than a few of them suffer not from lack of time but from their absurd time budget. They attend seminars, conferences, lectures, meetings that have no relation at all to the aim and purpose of their task. They are mostly activities that are more aimed at increasing their feeling of self-worth or the belief that management issues can’t be delegated.

Thus the delegation principle promotes the development and qualification of the staff. It increases the self-esteem and creates the conditions for people to be willing to continually raise their performance. What the manager needs to do is give their member of staff situationally adequate support and feedback so that he achieves good results on his own and develops real enthusiasm for his work. This is also called corporate stakeholder responsibility.


5. Think about your team

To make contemporary reforms possible qualification must take place where ethical values and perceptual abilities are urgently needed. A good boss does not have to score the goals himself but sees himself as the trainer of a team with whom he agrees on rules and milestones and whom he accompanies on the company’s journey. What is decisive on this journey is that the team member is sufficiently qualified, trained and motivated in order to come up with the best solutions for the customer, the company and the environment. He must be able to read the interplay of the team and train continuously. The time of personal decision making is over. According to the Economist Intelligence, “the future companies will be managed by Expert Teams and Network Managers”.


6. Introduce trust

Another international study by Czipin & Proudfoot on current management behaviour shows how neglectfully this motivation aspect of managers is treated. As a result, managers only devote 23% of their working time on their actual core business: motivation and support of staff. Up to 43% is devoted to administrative activities; the rest to meetings and travelling. Many members of staff resign themselves to finding happiness in filling their leisure time and / or pursuing private interests.

The waste of resources through motivation killers is significant. Top priority is a management culture oriented towards ethical standards based on trust instead of mistrust. Without trust and loyalty we cannot create durable partnerships, creative freedoms and thus innovations and changes.