Independence in the Sense of the Whole

Digitalization does not replace humans and it cannot do without them. On the contrary, it is precisely because of digitalization that what is typically human is more in demand than ever before. This refers in particular to our ability to find creative solutions together as independent individuals and to work together effectively and efficiently in teams and organizations. In the past, this cooperation has long been characterized by central control on the one hand and obedient fulfillment of duties on the other. What was not very human for unskilled workers at the beginning of industrialization, but at least productive, has finally become a degrading impertinence in the middle of the information age. New leadership today aims at cooperation that enables independence in the sense of the whole.

Leadership today is only legitimate if it is aimed at the self-leadership of the employees entrusted to it.

Götz W. Werner

In this quote, the founder of the German drugstore chain dm and the confessing anthroposophist Götz W. Werner aptly summarized the intention of Dialogical Leadership. This leadership approach has been developed at the Friedrich von Hardenberg Institute for Cultural Studies in Heidelberg since the mid-1990s and has received extensive attention due to its successful implementation at dm. Based on the great diversity of meaning of the ancient term Logos as used by Heraclitus, Dialogue in this context means far more than just a certain way of speaking to one another. What is meant is the basic attitude and the interaction with each other, such that the individual’s self-determination is encouraged.

Dialogical leadership works on the question of how as many employees of a company or organization as possible can get into an individual entrepreneurial disposition and how they can work together productively from such a disposition.

Karl-Martin Dietz: Jeder Mensch ein Unternehmer. Grundzüge einer dialogischen Kultur.

Dialogical leadership clearly means the encounter of adults on par with one another, as it is also clearly anchored in the Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership. The orientation towards the boss turns into an orientation towards the cause and the customer. The point is to act as it is right, appropriate and meaningful in the situation and not because and how the boss wants it. This requires the will and ability to lead oneself and requires a new way of working together. The following core questions of the Dialogical Culture provide a good framework for orientation. (Source: Dialogical Leadership | Dialogical Culture):

  • Humankind: How can the dignity of the (single) person be kept at a high level? How can the others foster the development of the individual?
  • The Given Situation: How can each individual obtain a view of the whole? How does the common whole emerge out of the independence of the individual?
  • The Future: How can the creativity of as many employees as possible be stimulated? How can the individual’s originality be integrated into the future of collaboration?
  • The Action: How can as many employees as possible become proactive? How can joint action be achieved by individual accountability?

It is therefore the task of leadership to design the following four processes individually for the people and the organization in order to enable independence in the sense of the whole (Source: Dialogical Leadership | Dialogical Culture):

  • Individual encounters in regard to relations between people. Taking an interest in an individual as opposed to practicing role behavior or exploitation of others.
  • Transparency in regard to the given situation.Independent power of judgment of the individual instead of power bestowing knowledge or dictatorship of opinion.
  • Consulting and idea development in regard to the future. Creativity instead of tradition and structural standards.
  • Decisiveness in regard to actual actions. Acting on one‘s own initiative instead of out of acting for the sake of self-realization or on behalf of another person.

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