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The human touch of digital leadership – Amongst the challenges for leadership in the volatile digital world, one of them is the ability to maintain focus and motivation in the remote workforce as teams are dispersed and most of the work is done online. For instance, people may find it a struggle to plan their time and focus on their goals since they are isolated in their homes. In fact, employees have seen their performance declining as they are not surrounded by the physical support of their boss and co-workers due to the enforced lockdown caused by the pandemic (Tan et al., 2020). Surely, the lack of physical contact due to social distancing during the COVID 19 pandemic has made it tough for each individual to keep the moral up and collaborate with their peers. But how can leaders maintain the morale of their troops and keep up with their performance? Below are some qualities which could help leaders to drive motivation in their teams and with a focus on empathy and emotional intelligence from the leaders.

The hostility of the VUCA environment has not only increased the complexity of decision-making in organizations but it has also altered the way their leadership and workforce behave. Often times, employees might act out of character because of the ambiguous environment around them and the complex nature of that ambiguity. The same applies for leaders who sometimes show overwhelming behavior towards their subordinates when things do not go their way. In order to avoid these conflicting situations, leaders should show empathy towards their employee. Empathy in leadership is the ability of the leaders to put themselves in the shoes of their subordinates and understand their feelings, struggles and the factors that motivate them (Natale and Libertella, 2019). Leaders should demonstrate to their employees that they can feel what they are going through and that they care about them. By doing so, this allows the managers to easily work personalized strategies that will improve the self-development of each staff member. Empathy in leadership is an essential quality that needs to be considered by today’s leaders as it is a bringer of good fortune to the organization. Executives who regularly include empathic thinking in their leadership principles are indeed likely to enjoy better performance from their workforce as talented employees are keen to deliver the best of themselves when they are managed by empathic leaders (Natale and Libertella, 2019).

Leading by head

The element of the head aims to convey that leaders are entitled to pave the way for their followers amid the uncertainty that is ruling their surroundings. They need to define a vision of what they really want to achieve and communicate it to their subordinates in such a manner that it will be easily understood by them (Strack et al., 2020). In such context, the key for leaders is to craft their vision according to the digital needs of the enterprise as well as the external requirements such as demands of customers. Although crafting a solid vision for the future might be challenging for certain leaders, the actual struggle for the majority of them is to engage their followers to abide to that vision. There are different causes to that. Perhaps employees are not really optimistic about the potential of what their managers has to offer on the plate, or they are just too focused on fulfilling their tasks for the company as they do not want to disappoint their superiors (Westerman et al., 2015, p. 110). To remedy this situation, leaders should demonstrate integrity which has become essential in the digital age of uncertainty. Although crafting a solid vision for the future might be challenging for certain leaders, the actual struggle for the majority of them is to engage their followers to abide to that vision. There are different causes to that. Perhaps employees are not really optimistic about the potential of what their managers has to offer on the plate, or they are just too focused on fulfilling their tasks for the company as they do not want to disappoint their superiors (Westerman et al., 2015, p. 110). To remedy this situation, leaders should demonstrate integrity which has become essential in the digital age of uncertainty.

Leading by heart

This element is the core component of empathy for leadership and stresses out the need for managers to lead with empathic skills. An aspect of emphatic leadership in the digital age is the deep understanding of people as professionals and human beings. Leaders who value this principle of promoting growth among their teams and business partners can be assured of retaining the best employees but also suppliers and customers (Brett, 2019, p. 72). Nonetheless, the culture of empathy is not yet a big trend followed by current leaders and enterprises despite the enormous opportunities that comes along it. In today’s work setting where remote working dominates the professional world, efforts must be invested by leaders in seizing these opportunities to develop strong bonds with their personnel (Strack et al., 2020).

Leading by hands

Once that the vision has been crafted, clearly communicated to the entire organization and that the manpower is ready to embark in the digital journey, it is obvious that the next step is for leaders to take action and turn their vision into reality. When leaders reach this phase, they are said to be nearly ready to embrace digital transformation. “Nearly” ready because nothing comes without a price. As a matter of fact, there is a need for financial assets to be invested to the organization in order for the vision of the leader to become a realizable project (Westerman et al., 2015, p. 189). Managers should be therefore backed by the board of investment as well as their partners and employees in terms of financial, moral and man power support respectively since the effective implementation of any digital transformation relies on the execution of viable goals (Strack et al., 2020).

Leading by hand also implies that everybody who is involved in the execution of the vision enabled by leaders are accountable for any bottlenecks that might happen. The key here is a healthy collaboration between the different entities (Pfeffermann, 2020). As employees are brought on board of the digital journey, leaders should promote a framework of participation and feedback so that the former can identify themselves within the enterprise as they put their hands in contribution to the execution of their leader’s vison (Höhn, 2013). In contrast to that, there is a necessity for leaders to facilitate realistic expectations in their workforce as it is their duty to ensure that their teams can easily deliver the best work package possible. Also, managers must constantly communicate with their employees in order identify and reach agreements on which goals are feasible and which are not. The aim is that a constant dialogue about the goals of the enterprise is maintained so that it is easier to adjust and fulfill them (Pfeffermann, 2020). The key message conveyed by the method described above is that empathic leadership skills are fundamental assets that shall not be neglected by leaders in today’s unpredictable world (Natale and Libertella, 2019). The models proposed in this section speak for themselves; it is unimaginable for companies to thrive and prosper in nowadays’ tumultuous without associating empathy to their leadership practices.