New Leadership for a Challenging Future

April 08, 2024

Why we urgently need New Leadership

Energy crises, inflation and armed conflicts non-stop, on top of the aftermath of a global pandemic: our world is becoming increasingly complex, fast-moving and, above all, unpredictable. The methods of "New Leadership" promise a remedy. But what is the secret of New Leadership? Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy delves into the topic.

Leading into the future with New Leadership. Image: shutterstock,
Leading into the future with New Leadership. Image: shutterstock,

As the challenges of the future in our BANI world can no longer be solved with the means of the present, managers must adapt and rethink. This can be challenging as the new playing field is mostly outside of your own management comfort zone...

What we therefore need is a new concept of leadership; one that has been summarized in recent years under the term of New Leadership. But what does this mean in practice? And how can we still lead successfully in the future?

Successful Leadership in the BANI World: One Plan - Many Futures

When it is unclear what tomorrow will bring, new leaders must offer their team the orientation and stability that no longer exists in the uncertain outside world. However, BANI does not mean apocalyptic chaotic conditions in which you simply have to give up. Rather, managers and companies can actively shape their future. It is helpful to have a rough roadmap that is regularly evaluated to be able to react flexibly to current changes. To succeed in this admittedly difficult exercise, it is important to imagine possible futures: strategic foresight is the magic formula. Although no scenario will occur in the way we have outlined, the fact that we know about our past, successfully master the operational tasks of the present and actively shape the future helps us to anticipate alternative futures, react quickly and deal with new developments in a structured way.

BANI – Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear and Incomprehensible. Image: shutterstock, Whale Design
BANI – Brittle, Anxious, Non-Linear and Incomprehensible. Image: shutterstock, Whale Design

Managers continue to set the direction - but the path to get there can and should be shaped and taken together. As complex problems can rarely be solved alone, collaboration and participation are fundamental components of new leadership.

Focus on People in New Leadership

Bringing different perspectives and diverse team members together effectively will continue to be the hallmark of good leadership in the future. Just like transparent and clear communication, because leadership at eye level thrives on open exchange. In general, it is about creating an atmosphere in which people enjoy working. To do this, managers must be able to focus on people and respond to individual needs. They build trusting relationships with their employees and actively support them in their further development.

Wanted: Job with purpose and work-life balance

Never have there been so many generations in the workforce at the same time - completely new requirements are emerging for managers. What about Generation Z, for example: they want meaning in their job, enjoy their work and contribute something positive, which in turn benefits others - and possibly no longer work 70 hours a week.

Work-life balance in the BANI world: nobody wants to do without it anymore. Image: shutterstock, Black Salmon
Work-life balance in the BANI world: nobody wants to do without it anymore. Image: shutterstock, Black Salmon

But even with experienced managers who come to the WU Executive Academy from all over the world to do an Executive MBA, it is often the case that they want to get off the hamster wheel and make a difference together. They want to see something new, get to know people and consciously think outside the box. For example, an alumnus has gone from a very successful career in banking to a position in his country's government – he wanted to use his experience and business background to help lead his country to a better future.

New Leadership Conclusion:

New leadership is an attitude that aims to overcome the challenges of the future. It means seeing new things primarily as opportunities and less as dangers. It also means acquiring pioneering qualities such as courage and openness to counter the adversities of the BANI world. In the spirit of Winston Churchill, who said: "Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision". But empathy, intuition, appreciation, and focus are also among the most important leadership skills of the future. A key factor for greater resilience is personal responsibility. It is the basis for people to stop reacting and remaining in fear, but to act courageously and move from the passenger seat of their (professional) life to behind the wheel. These are the most important ingredients for successful New Leadership.

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