Press Release – Dusseldorf/Cologne, August 2018

The Success of Digitalization Depends on Leadership

Dusseldorf/Cologne, August 2018

Digital technologies continue to evolve rapidly, much faster than humans can adapt, and demand a great deal from professionals in their daily work. Against this backdrop, leadership style is now more important than ever. But what does good leadership actually look like when it comes to digitalization? Germany’s professionals have clear ideas about their preferred style of leadership – 94% prefer transformational leadership where the manager acts as a role model, conveys a vision, and motivates employees; 88% prefer strategic leadership by a manager who is capable of formulating specific goals and providing constructive feedback; and 84% prefer ethical leadership where the manager focuses on values and promotes independent working. These findings come from a study of 13,500 professionals and managers, conducted by the online job platform StepStone and Kienbaum Institute @ ISM. In this study, the research institute of Kienbaum investigated the way executives perceived themselves as compared with their employees’ assessment of them as managers.

Most bosses give orders

The study shows that the innovation performance and work engagement of employees increases when transformational and strategic leadership combine with digital leadership expertise. However, the majority of professionals are not so positive about their managers, with only 29% viewing their manager as a “strategic” leader, fewer still (21%) seeing their manager as a “transformational” leader and less than 10% agreeing their manager practices “ethical” leadership. Instead, more than half of all respondents said they had a manager with a “directive” leadership style or a manager who expects his or her employees to follow instructions to the letter. “Digitalization and changing markets are forcing companies to reconsider their organizational structures, and executives in particular are having to ‘reinvent’ themselves. The old managerial types who organize tasks very rigidly and monitor their employees closely are becoming quite rare” says Dr. Sebastian Dettmers, Executive Director at StepStone. “Managers need to have an effective, people-focused leadership style that shows an interest in their employees and takes into account their individual needs and development.”

A disconnect between self-perception and external perception

The study carried out by StepStone and Kienbaum shows that, overall, the view that executives have of themselves is far more positive than the way they are evaluated by their employees. The majority of managers surveyed considered themselves to be strategic, ethical and transformational leaders, with very few seeing themselves as having a directive leadership style. “The success of a company largely relies on executives who are very aware of their leadership behavior and who can reflect on the influence (positive or negative) that this has on the workforce and organization,” says Walter Jochmann, Executive Director at Kienbaum. “No single leadership style offers a guarantee of success – differentiated leadership models that focus on individual needs of employees and the specific characteristics of the organization in equal measure are the key to success.” Detailed definitions of the individual leadership styles can be found in the study Whitepaper. About the study “The Art of Leadership in the Digital Revolution” In this study, management consultancy Kienbaum and online job platform StepStone looked at the degree of change in leadership as part of the digital transformation of the workplace. For this study, StepStone and Kienbaum carried out an online survey with around 13,500 participants in managerial and professional roles in the first quarter of 2018. This figure included around 3,600 department or team managers and around 1,300 division or business managers. About StepStone StepStone helps people find their dream job. StepStone employs more than 3,000 people and, in addition to, operates online platforms in other countries as well. The company, founded in 1996, is a subsidiary of Axel Springer SE: The institute The Kienbaum Institute@ISM for Leadership & Transformation is an innovative research center and think tank for solutions to current and future business challenges in human resource management. The institute brings together the research competence of the International School of Management (ISM) with the sound expertise and many years of experience of the international consultancy company, Kienbaum. The institute sets out to develop innovative solutions relevant to practice, in particular in strategic areas relating to leadership, HR, demography, transformation and change management.


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