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HR insights

Blog: Leadership trends

The requirement profile is clear: nowadays, managers have to lead collaboratively

Social change in values and new technologies change work processes and therefore also the requirements for managers. Companies do well to create the necessary framework conditions for this. A recent study shows the most successful companies invest in the personal and professional development of their executives. On the other hand, averagely successful companies often lag behind.

The thing that distinguishes employers from the average in respect of leadership culture shows our latest evaluation 'HR Insights'. On the basis of our HR Best Practices Survey, the information of 600 certified top employer companies with each more than 3,000 employees locally, or more than 5,000 employees worldwide in 102 countries has been evaluated. The evaluation covers six trends that define the leadership style of the next manager generation.

1. Trend: Monocracy is over
The most important change: Leadership is no longer thought of as an individual, but increasingly as a collaborative task. Many of the companies that are above average in our survey are increasingly laying the notion to rest, that a company is only lead by an elitist circle. They see themselves having a responsibility to create a climate where a trustworthy collaboration on all levels is encouraged. This also means to incorporate employees in decisions. The associated appreciation is motivating and can release potentials. A requirement for that is an open style of communication.

2. Trend: Influence is more important than status
Flat hierarchies and the interdisciplinary work in project teams present special challenges to the leadership of employees. Who has the last word if different departments suddenly work together? How can the skills of employees from different locations be coordinated? And how should specialists be involved, that nominally do not hold a leadership role, but that are indispensable for the success of the project? The answer is: Knowledge carriers, who have personal influence in the networks of the company due to their skills and experiences, should be – also independently from the organigram – included in leadership and therefore in decision levels.

3. Trend: Everybody is responsible for their own career
In successful companies the insight that leaders develop even better the more influence they have over the tempo and the direction of their professional progress, gains more and more acceptance. Aspiring managers, for example, tend to leave beaten career paths and gain experience in alternating project teams. Good employers encourage that by offering young leaders the needed space for development. Companies that support their junior leaders in this way report a long-term gain in trust in the leadership culture.

4. Trend: Access to leadership positions becomes more transparent
Companies that are especially successful when it comes to the internal recruiting of future leaders have the distinction of opening up trainee programs for all employees. This way, hidden leadership talents can be discovered that would otherwise not appear on the radar of human resource development. A crucial requirement for that is a good information policy. Every employee who plans to get started in a leadership career should get easy access to all necessary information from his or her employer. This, however, only happens in 69 percent of the evaluated companies.

5. Trend: Leadership quality should be measurable 
Good leadership should equate to a better performance of employees and therefore more economical success for the company. So far, the quality of soft factor leadership was judged primarily by subjective criteria, for example with employee surveys. Many companies that perform outstandingly in the HR Best Practices Survey nowadays look at these subjective evaluation factors alongside economic numbers like sales numbers, productivity rates, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and ROI. This way, the success of good leadership gets increasingly measurable. This also implicates that every measure for leader development in the future needs to exist more and more as a business case.

6. Trend: Leader development becomes digital and virtual
Online coaching, virtual meetings, social learning, enterprise networks, whatever is part of the daily routine for the best performing companies remains new territory for a lot of competitors. There's no other area in which the discrepancy between top companies and the average is so blatant. But here, especially, the risk of not being able to keep pace with the leading group is high. The younger generation is used to personalised interfaces on social networks, comfortably available via mobile devices – that will await them as well as future leaders when it comes to their own career development. The majority of companies clearly have some catching up to do.

Organisational culture as crucial key
The results of the 'HR Insights' prove that certified Top Employers are better when it comes to defining the role of leaders and to adjust it to altered requests. The close serration of leader culture and performance management in a company thereby proves itself as a key to success.

The pioneers are more flexible when it comes to arranging performance targets with their leaders. The executive employee additionally gets more room for career planning. This way, professional and private requirements can be harmonised much better.

Companies that already aligned their organisational culture according to this criteria report better cooperation in specific teams and entire organisations, as well as more openness and trust in dealing with leaders and employees. The leadership of employees is, just like everything else, subject to change. Cultural activities therefore are no luxury. It is, rather, compulsory for all companies and organisations that want to work successfully in the long run.