For some years now, companies have been facing strong challenges due to a shortage of skilled workers, a scarcity of resources, digitalization and globalization. In order to emerge successfully from this change in the long term and to be able to survive in the market, a realignment of the corporate strategy and frequently also a review of the processes along the value chain, is essential. However, the basic foundation, consisting of corporate values, mindset and leadership style, also needs to be modernized. For along with this general change, the demands and expectations of employees have also increasingly changed. If employees are to continue to identify with the company on a broad basis in the future, then their leadership must adopt a more value-based and partnership-oriented approach. The “top-down management” model has become obsolete: nowadays, managers are role models and coaches. By doing so, companies are paving the way for sustainable leadership – the sustainable leadership concept for the companies of tomorrow.
What is sustainable leadership?
The task of companies is no longer simply to generate profit, but also to question their own role in society. In short – the definition of a sense of purpose; a raison d´être. Every company has an economic responsibility, but also an ecological and a social one. Sustainable leadership integrates the different demands and values into the company´s mindset, in daily work process and structures. Since these challenges affect all areas of the company as a result of many interfaces, leadership must be completely revamped and transformed – both on the direct as well as on the more indirect management level.
Direct leadership in the company
Direct leadership covers all measures that exert a direct influence on employees. These include, for example, praise, feedback, criticism, target agreements or follow-up questions. However, each manager´s own behaviour also channels employees directly in a certain direction. The instruments of direct leadership are considered particularly powerful. Thus, praise and also criticism have a great and direct influence on the motivation of employees. Direct leadership is particularly relevant in times of major change in the company, as major changes often create uncertainty and are accompanied by a correspondingly increased need for communication.
Indirect leadership in the company
Indirect influence on employees includes factors such as personnel selection, the composition of teams and competition between employees. However, the design and layout of the workplace or the existing working atmosphere also fall into the category of indirect leadership as they do not have an immediate influence on employees, but rather a long-term one.
Sustainable employee management for the future
In order to exert a sustainable effect on employees, it is necessary to fundamentally realign and reassess all direct and indirect leadership instruments in terms of sustainability. In addition, leadership no longer takes place exclusively on-site, but often remotely, i.e. digitally with employees at different locations. This is where strong and clear communication and a sense of accessibility are particularly essential.
But even in other respects too, leaders are, more than ever before, role models and guiding figures, both in their commitment to the company and in their ability to inspire others for the company´s goals.
The following skills characterize a sustainable leadership style:
– Respectful interaction with employees
– Valuable input
– Genuine interest
– A high level of communication and approachability
– Building and guiding effective teams
– Employee co-determination in decision making
– Flexibility in the face of new challenges
– Solution orientation and resilience
– A coach for all employees
High performance is only possible if employees can be brought on board and they can identify with the corporate culture. Hierarchies and top-down instructions have, for the most part, had their day. Sustainable leadership is achieved through real people, who lead by example with drive and passion. It is therefore necessary to create an awareness of genuine values that are in tune with economic as well as social and ecological needs.