Leadership is a matter of stance. Unfortunately, leadership is still defined in terms of power and subordination. The relationship between leaders and those being led is usually asymmetrical: the boss has more experience, more information and more power than his staff. The employees are therefore more dependent on their boss than, conversely, the boss on them. Historically, this attitude stems from Taylorism, where the manager was actually the one who understood the workflows best and could structure them into simple steps for his mostly unskilled people. However, these times are long gone. Since then, the nature of work and the educational level of employees have changed radically. What has remained in many cases is the familiar dependency between boss and employee. Peter F. Drucker coined the term knowledge work for this changed world of work as early as 1959 (far ahead of his time). He recognized the fundamental differences early on and called for leadership to be understood as a cooperation of adults on par with each other. That is precisely why the fifth thesis of the Manifesto for Human Leadership says: “Growing leaders over leading followers.”
As a manager today, it is necessary to have more abilities than just to climb the career ladder as far as possible. The hierarchy is without question an appropriate form of organization to efficiently manage today’s and well-known business. However, when it comes to respond adequately to the ever-increasing pressure of change in an ever-shorter period of time, the hierarchy and classic change programs reach their limits. John P. Kotter therefore argues that change should be understood as the new normal and he therefore suggests the network as a second operating system for organizations. This network is cross-hierarchical and organized as loosely coupled initiatives of intrinsically motivated volunteers. Building it up, maintaining it and making contributions to it is a very important task of leadership in order to create sustainable organizations in times of change. That is precisely why the fourth thesis in the Manifesto for Human Leadership is called “Contributions to networks over position in hierarchies”.
The very essence of leadership is to provide orientation. That’s why leadership is crucial in agile organizations. Agility requires orientation to be effective. Without this orientation, agility becomes arbitrary. It misses the alignment towards a common goal. This raises the question of how leadership should provide orientation today. On the one hand steering precisely with command and control or on the other hand providing direction with vision and purpose and relying on the best possible contributions of the teams. “Purpose and Trust over Command and Control” is therefore the third thesis of the Manifesto for Human Leadership (you may also sign it on this occasion!), which is discussed in more detail in this third part of the explanations.
Work in large industrial corporations is defined by processes, roles and standards — centrally planned, elaborated, documented, rolled out, trained and regularly checked for compliance. In return, there are ISO and DIN stamps and everyone is happy. On the paper, anyway. You can and indeed sometimes have to ask yourself whether the actual work happens because of or rather despite the many processes. However, this should only be mentioned in passing. The question rather is whether agile organizations require processes and standards. And if so, how these actually emerge and develop.
This is the second thesis of the Manifesto for Human Leadership. In this second part of the explanations to the Manifesto, the concept of diversity is quite central – not so much in the classical sociological sense of equal opportunities and equal rights for people of different sexes, ages, origins, etc., but rather in the sense of individuality, personality structures and problem-solving behaviour. This diversity of different ways of thinking and finding solutions naturally leads to dissent and discourse. This is an uncomfortable process, but it promises better solutions than too harmonious group thinking. The task of leadership is to consciously utilize and nurture this diversity and to strive for a culture of constructive dissent.