“There are no bad teams. There are only bad officers.” Napoleon Bonaparte stressed the necessity of a strong leader when it comes to delivering the optimum performance for a team – or perhaps the best economical situation for the long-term success of a company. But today’s managers are not only the boss, the role model, and the leader commanding respect, they’re also motivators, sparring partners and mentors. The requirements for the modern manager nowadays are becoming increasingly complex.
With the help of ManagerFragen.org, a German platform that allows senior executives a place to discuss management topics and current events in the HR sphere, we asked some experienced executives for their thoughts on the question: what makes a manager great?
A Changing Environment, Changing Requirements for Leaders
Our environment is in a constant state of flux, not only in society but also in the unpredictable economic swings currently affecting our world. We live in a so-called “network community,” in which the natural boundaries between producers and consumers are increasingly blurred – neologisms like “Prosumer” illustrate this point. Immaterial goods like knowledge and information – wherein access was limited only a few years ago – are now available for everyone through technical innovations like the internet.
The result of this development is shown through different power structures: in the modern network community, the recipients of this information are by no means passive. Far more often, there is a reinforced need for participation, that is encouraged through a strengthened connection between the consumers in a social and economic process.
The mentality of interaction is becoming increasingly clear, specifically in Generation Y, today’s youngest members of the workforce. Executives entrusted to lead a team of digital natives must become well educated in the needs of this special generation.
In a drastic change from the work culture of 30 years ago, most members of Generation Y do not classify their private lives as separate from their careers. Many believe in the compatibility of the two.
In a professional perspective, Generation Y’ers also expect an active say in most workplace decisions, as well as a high level of independence and self-measured accountability, as well as an appropriate salary. These insights were derived from a recent study done by the Bertelsmann Foundation about the future of leadership.
Leadership 3.0: Managers Require These Competencies
Today’s employee is no longer so easily satisfied, some people may think. Managers require a high level of social competencies to excel as leaders. But at the same time, they must also be able to adapt to the changing economic and social conditions of the time. The requirements of executives have significantly increased in complexity. “The simplest form of leadership, ‘command and control,’ has already been obsolete for a long while, and can no longer meet the social, speed, and flexibility requirements of the market,” explains Stephan Grabmeier, the Managing Director for Innovation Evangelists Ltd.
Expertise and Good Rapport with Employees
Successful leadership has become a tightrope between technical, organizational and personal skills. “A leader should not only have a full comprehension of management techniques, but also a comprehensive knowledge of his industry,” says Stefan Röber of the Schön Klinik Ltd. They must leave behind the concept of being the “top official in charge,” and focus more on using their own knowledge and experience to evaluate their employees to figure out where each employee will perform best. Social competencies have also become crystallized as as important leadership component – a direct connection to employees is a crucial factor when assessing their strengths and weaknesses.
Appreciation and Creating a Positive Office Climate
Above all else, the social competencies of the managers influence the quality of the working climate. “There are many positive factors that result from a positive working climate. Employees are happier to go to work when they feel appreciated – for example, through a feedback culture. Employees who are excited to work make fewer mistakes. Success continues to motivate them, and with the praise and support of their leadership, this effect is strengthened,” explained Sascha Röber, and adds that the right conditions must be present in the company for executives to function this way. This also includes allowing time for managers to take care of the development of their employees, as well as an overall harmonious and productive working environment.
For leaders who think of employees as nothing more than human capital, Dr. Jörg Böttcher of HSH Nordback can’t sympathize. A good supervisor must value his employees as real people: “To me, managers who refer to their team members as ‘cogs in a machine’ or say that the ‘machinery must be oiled’ are extremely suspect.” An open and honest approach between management and their employees is essential for productive cooperation.
Appreciation is another central factor that managers should implement in their leadership style. A lack of recognition for their performance can result in a higher stress level for employees, as well as more missed days and a higher rate of employee resignations.
The occasional praise for good performance can’t hurt. Böttcher agrees. “Employees value it when work discussions aren’t just limited to performance warnings and negative topics, but also serve as an opportunity to get positive feedback.” This key factor of management remains unchanged.
Leadership as a Tool for Collective Decision Making
The role of the modern leader is increasingly becoming a balancing act – executives must be aware of so many intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Successful leadership is the result of collective decision making. For managers, this means finding the right balance between leading and delegating responsibility, between leading and motivating their team, between close supervision and trust.
The modern boss leads his staff in an environment filled with contrasting values. He must handle the various needs of a diverse team, and at the same time, keep pace with the rest of the business world. The requirements of managers today are certainly demanding. The silver lining, however: social competency is half of the battle. Those who are striving towards their next career step should listen very carefully to what the rest of their team has to say; their success depends on it!
On the German website Managerfragen.org, readers can view the full answers from these senior managers. Readers can also see and explore other discussions they’ve participated in. We’d like to thank the contributors for their interesting perspectives and assessments!