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As a digital leader, how can you motivate your employees on a long-lasting basis?

In addition to good technical know-how, digital leaders also have to demonstrate excellent social and emotional competency.
Image: © NDABCREATIVITY / Adobe Stock

New leadership: the challenges of transformation

New forms of communication and networking, the growing flexibility of the world of work, and the increasing trend toward remote working present various new challenges to managers. Traditional hierarchies, rigid work structures, and a physical presence in the workplace are becoming less and less relevant. They are being replaced by the desire expressed by many employees for more relaxed time management, autonomous working, and more self-fulfillment overall. Today’s digital leaders therefore don’t just need sound technical know-how, but also a vast array of social and emotional skills. If you want to convince, inspire and captivate your team, you have to embrace a collaborative management style. This new leadership style is all about networking and trust rather than superiority and control. Instead of demanding results, employees are given options. Accordingly, digital leaders should first and foremost see themselves as facilitators, mediators, and networkers.

Why managers need to offer a sense of security in times of digitalization

The more technical and abstract our world becomes, the greater the need for security, stability, and emotionality. That especially applies to the world of work, because in the work spaces of the future, work processes are not only being optimized and simplified by digital applications, modern networking options, artificial intelligence and other technology, but in some cases, they also become more complex and less transparent. In particular, this is often the concern of employees who do not count themselves as being digital natives.

Especially in the context of digital transformation, there should be a greater emphasis on people in the working environment, and their needs must be taken into account. In this regard, it is vital to establish reliable company values and a corporate culture that promotes trust and a sense of security. This is one of the main tasks of digital leadership, since it helps creates an environment that forms an emotional bond between team members, gives them a common goal to work toward, and at the same time gives them enough freedom for personal growth and self-fulfillment.

What soft skills does a digital leader need?

When considering all these aspects, it becomes clear that soft skills play an increasingly key role in employee management within the scope of digital or new leadership. The skills, traits and qualities that digital leaders need to demonstrate today include the ability to

  • form an emotional bond within both heterogeneous and dispersed teams through suitable teambuilding measures,
  • promote diversity and individuality,
  • adapt to changes in an agile and flexible manner,
  • build and expand networks, and
  • provide impetus and encourage employees to be creative and innovative.

In times of digitalization, managers increasingly need to have social and communicative skills that enable them to create a sustainable team spirit and ensure efficient collaboration against the backdrop of digital communication, cross-departmental working, and physical separation caused by remote working. Ideally, digital leaders are thus emotional leaders who successfully build relationships and trust.

Why digital leadership works better with trust than control

Although digitalization presents many opportunities for meticulously tracking the progress of work processes, it is not advisable to monitor employees during the individual work steps. This can quickly give team members the impression that they are not acting on their own, intrinsic motivation, but merely delivering the results they are expected to. To contribute to a high level of commitment and employee motivation in the long term, digital leaders should focus on trust instead of control, define common goals within their team, and concentrate on a results-oriented approach to work. After all, new leadership is actually less about “managing” in the narrower sense of the word and more about coaching, assistance, and inspiration. The objective is to create a supportive environment in which team members enjoy being actively and creatively involved.

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