Leadership comprises three tasks: the work of the head, the activities of the hand and the tasks of the heart.  The first two aspects are nowadays increasingly outsourced through automation and artificial intelligence. What this means for leadership as a whole and how the third aspect of leadership becomes the core task of “Leadership of the Future” is explained in this article.

Aspect one of leadership, the work of the hand, describes the manual activities. In the course of industrialized automation, this is increasingly being taken over by robots. In combination with the smart solutions of industry 4.0 and the possibilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) the vision of a »Factory of the Future« becomes reality. Here you can see few to no people at all – the work is done independently by machines or robots that communicate and cooperate independently with each other.

Managing relationships – new leadership focus

The work of the head, i.e. cognitive performance, is also increasingly being outsourced: artificial intelligence, decisions based on algorithms, cloud computing as well as offers of platform economy and big data are changing the world of the brain workers. Even auditors, lawyers and computer scientists are affected. What remains, however, is the work and leadership of the heart. A few decades ago, leadership focused on outstanding expertise. This focus is increasingly dwindling.

The central task of the leader of the future will be to manage relationships.

In addition, it is important to create a healthy creative tension so that collaboration in teams and departments becomes possible in the first place.

Recognizing and using strengths and resources

As a result, the core competencies of a manager also change. A manager becomes a human-connector, a relationship-fixer, a social bonder. Someone who makes this healthy creative tension in a team or department possible. And the leader increasingly needs to become an enabler who takes a close look at where the strengths and talents of the employees lie. And how they’re used to best fit the workspace and the organization. Just like a football coach, a manager must develop the competence to recognize and use the strengths and resources of employees.

Less plan – more attention and trust

Neuroscientist professor Dr. Joachim Bauer postulates that people’s motivation systems simply switch off when they have no chance of social affection. Social affection is the bonding cement for cooperation within a company. We live in a time of ambiguity and complexity. The business world is becoming more complex in almost all areas of business and in all industries: And in this world the old ideas of hierarchical planning no longer work. And even the old management ideas of »order and command« have become dysfunctional. In complex situations, instead of having a detailed plan, it makes more sense to proceed in a clear direction but with iterative feedback loops. In a complex situation, it is difficult to rely on a longer-term plan. Rather, it requires reliance and trust in the people of the company – especially in the executives. The problem is that the lack of predictability of the future is threatening for many employees. And this perceived threat has a direct negative effect on people’s cognitive performance. In recent years, the neurosciences have gained amazing insights into the essential neurobiological needs. These essential needs are the foundation for human action and thus for cooperation within the company. A manager can do a great deal to meet these essential needs in his or her team or department. Read more about this in our next article.

Conclusion:Due to the increasingly complex business landscape, a manager has the core task of facilitating relationships, supporting them and, if necessary, fixing them. She has to listen to her employees like a good coach in order to give them orientation and familiarity. When things get complex and confusing on the outside, the focus automatically shifts to the inside – in search of stability and security. And in the future, the core task of management will be to create a social structure in which every employee can find this orientation.

The current article is the prelude to a mini-series on the subject of »Leadership of the Future«. Outlook on the coming articles:

  • Neuroleadership – leading with the findings of brain research
  • Positive Leadership – leaning towards leadership
  • Feedback leads to a clear and appreciative resonance culture