New Work means a change for everyone towards a working world in which people work autonomously and with a high degree of individual freedom. This new world of work does not exclude managers either; but what does New Work actually mean for them and their role? What are the characteristics and behaviors that characterize successful managers in this world of work? For us, six leadership principles are particularly important.
Let go of responsibility:
The underlying concept of New Work includes the assumption that every individual takes responsibility. This means that a New Work leader’s first and perhaps most important step, is to learn how to transfer responsibility for processes, content and deliverables to team members. This also includes establishing decision-making protocols that make it easy for employees to assume responsibility for things that make sense for them to hold.
Focus on people:
Leadership in New Work means a shift of focus from tasks and content responsibility to coaching and capacitating employees. This means being available to them as sparring partners and creating the framework in which the team can be successful – in short, enabling rather than contolling. Managers in the New Work context should be psychologically trained to deal with their employees and to challenge and promote their individual potential. The so-called “soft factors” of leadership will continue to grow in importance.
The core idea of New Work is to do “what I really, really want” (Frithjof Bergmann). Accordingly, it is a central task of leaders to convey the meaning and purpose of each activity. This applies to both large and small activities. As a leader, I am the first ambassador for the purpose of my organisation and in living the values of my organisation. In addition, it is my responsibility to derive (and sometimes even co-create) concrete goals for my team from the corporate vision.
In times of disruptive change, nothing is more constant than change. Managers therefore need a high degree of change intelligence. It is not enough to accompany or control the change, a fluid mindset is fundamental, which recognises that change is an opportunity for continuous improvement of the organization. More than that a managers role is to integrate that view deep into the organization, into every corner.
In order to live with change, change must of course also take place within people, especially managers. To reflect on one’s own leadership actions and have a desire for personal development are central qualities in New Work. For managers, this desire for further development applies to them, their team and the organisation as a whole. That ambition of, how can I make my employees, my team, my organization a little bit better every day? is one that managers need to hold on to for success in new work.
Promote co-operation, connection & communication:
The manager acts as an enabler of communication and collaboration within the team and across different teams. She is no longer the sole decision-maker, but the facilitator of internal and external communication. She is, in a sense, coach, mediator and obstacle remover all in one person.
Of course, these six principles only shed light on a part of the manifold demands made on a manager and each must find his or her own individual leadership style. For us at CONTRACT one thing is certain: Leadership in New Work means that leaders are no longer heroes. This means that a manager in New Work acts primarily as a ‘servant leader’ who provides a valuable service for the team. They bear less responsibility for content and focus on people and their interactions. Thus leadership in New Work does not become less important or disappears completely, but shifts its focus, becoming more significant and demanding across a broader range of facets.