Leadership and strategy: How to lead progressively in times of upheaval

Andrea Riemer/Erich Vad

Today strategy and leadership are extremely challenged, because the social-political situation in general and the security-political world in particular have become less and less predictable. The confrontation with increasingly global networking including close interdependencies has become day-to-day political reality. As has been shown by the economic and financial crisis since 2008 and the reactor disaster of Fukushima in 2011, normality tends to become exception, whereas a state of emergency becomes a rule. At the same time the political and governmental space of Western industrial societies develops in a rather distinguished way, individualistically, with a tendency towards political defragmentation. These factors of influence make operational and situational leadership management, as well as surviving every single day, dominate so strongly that strategic emphases and objects get out of focus. In addition to that, instead of strategic thinking and action combined with leadership, really bureaucratic tactics of avoiding mistakes and vain attempts at controlling everything - and in the end nothing - become apparent. The traditional hierarchical total structuring of organisations leads to the tendency to push responsibility upwards, according to the motto “reporting makes free”. This prevents the look beyond the boundaries of the own sector and department, leading to glossing over the facts and to administering creative and strategically designed solutions to death. Concerning further training, this traditional understanding of leadership only leads to imparting of expertise and to some kind of knowledge which - due to the permanent change of today’s social, political and economic processes - will always be out-of-date when it is to be applied. Today more than ever, however, flexible, rapidly changeable and adaptable organisational structures are necessary in order to be able to react appropriately. Always proving to be available around the clock, as well as the ostentatively demonstrated state of being overworked, are often signs that competent employees are not enough incorporated into the tasks to be fulfilled. Here can also be seen that there is a lack of leading with assignments, of flat hierarchies, and of acknowledgement of good leaders by the administration. Really modern strategists and leaders, on the other hand, bet on participation, on experience of their employees going beyond sectors and departments, on networking beyond the own department and economic sector. They assemble leaders and employees with manifold perspectives at the round table in order to be able to analyse complex situations rapidly and comprehensively, and they encourage and motivate them to think out of the box. Modern strategists and leaders network. They establish a leadership culture which is characterized by confidence, mutual esteem and participation. Successful strategists and leaders are capable of conveying purpose and orientation, and they are living examples of them. Every day they put into practice what they demand; they activate and stimulate the capabilities of their employees, and they know that real strategy and real leadership can only begin when all the talking ends and a conclusive and at the same time harmonious entirety comes into being.