Leadership 4.0

New complexities: leadership in the digital world

Our world of work is changing fast, and with it are the skills and competences required from employees and managers. As one of the key catalysts from academia, Prof. Sabine Remdisch from the Leuphana University of Lüneburg is conducting research into “Leadership in the Digital World” and has founded the “LeadershipGarage”, aimed at preparing managers for the challenges of digitalisation.

Digital is the new normal. As part of the “LeadershipGarage” project, Prof. Remdisch explores how managers can take a constructive approach to addressing the growing challenges of a digital world of work. The LeadershipGarage examines our digital world of work and – based on innovative concepts developed in cooperation with Stanford University – brings together results and lessons learnt related to cutting-edge solutions for working, learning, and leading in the digital world.

Research for the LeadershipGarage project focuses on digital preparedness, digital leadership, and digital collaboration:

  • Digital preparedness – How well prepared are managers for the challenges of a digital world?
  • Digital leadership – How can managers operate successfully in a digitally integrated working environment?
  • Digital collaboration – How can we shape a future-oriented collaborative working culture?

In particular, these research priorities deal with issues faced by managers who lead from a distance: this has long been common practice in digitalised working environments, where the challenge for leaders is to manage and foster employees despite great distances and digital work structures. Geographical distance means that far-sighted leadership becomes increasingly important.  According to Prof. Remdisch, an “emotional history” is required to be able to connect with team members across large distances:

Interview with Prof. Remdisch: the challenges of distance leadership

On the sidelines of the conference entitled “Work 4.0 – brave new world” (December 2015), Prof. Remdisch was interviewed on her areas of expertise, including the key role of feedback and praise (especially in the context of distance leadership), the importance of storytelling for managers, and the fundamental transformation of power structures.

Study on work and leadership in a networked world: “Switching to digitalisation”

A study exploring work and leadership in a networked world interviewed start-ups as pioneers of innovative working cultures and masters of improvisation. It focused on the following questions: How can efficiency and performance be ensured in a modern, digitally networked world of work? And how can companies attract new generations of employees? The study delivered the following key recommendations for action:

1. In an “always on” working culture, managers have to take care of their own health and that of their team members. Otherwise, everyone involved will be at risk of burnout due to failed work-learn-life integration.

2. Managers need to facilitate the establishment of digital working cultures. The digital world of work is all about collaboration (“we” as opposed to “I”). We share information in the Cloud, use common tools to organise the exchange of data and knowledge, and communicate via web conferences.

3. Managers have to promote their team members within the network, providing them with information and connecting them with the right people.

4. The challenge of distance leadership is to build trust, involve employees in the decision-making process, and be responsive to their needs – even without face-to-face contact.

5. A culture of innovation means that managers foster an atmosphere that promotes innovation and encourages employees to be creative and engage in disruptive thinking.

Graphic recording: digital transformation – challenges & opportunities

The graphic recording was created at the “LOOP Lounge” event (“Digital becomes normal – future leadership concepts”) in Lüneburg on 25 June 2015, a network event hosted by the Leuphana University of Lüneburg that regularly brings together HR people and scientists for an exchange of knowledge and experience.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Remdisch

Yesterday's Standards no longer apply, because the digital world of work has its own laws of leadership: network, community, speed, and innovation.

Prof. Remdisch

LeadershipGarage: Leadership in the Digital World – People, Networks and Innovation

Stanford – LeadershipGarage

LeadershipGarage: toolbox for leadership in the digitalised world


Interview with Prof. Remdisch on work 4.0 (PERSONALFÜHRUNG 03/2016)

Relationship management is the key to digital leadership