Welcome to the female future!

When it comes to leadership, the digital world will predominantly be a female world. Why’s that? When we look at the certain leadership qualities, behaviours, and styles that are and will be requested even more as a result of the Digital Transformation in organisations and in society, we notice that most of that is connected with co-operative, systemic leadership styles and emotional intelligence and skills – characteristics that, on average, tend to be found in female leadership. Leading in a digital world means leading from the sidelines, influencing and providing a shared vision and strategy, taking care of any challenges and obstacles that arise along the way while employees in self-organised teams are finding their own pathways and making their own decisions. 

So, shall companies only hire women for leadership positions then?

Well, of course, the answer is no. From the early days of the Female Leadership topic on, one of the integral parts of the discussion has been to categorize leadership qualities in those that are more seen as connected with males (such as tough decision-making, the fact-based side of leadership and management) or females (emotional skills, communication, bonding, the relationship side of leadership and management). Interestingly, when you think about it, this has been the continuation of traditional gender-based role-models: men go hunt and do the ‘dirty jobs’ while women stay at home and take care of the brood. It certainly doesn’t mean that only women can and do take care of the relationship side and men only of the facts – but:

Leadership will need to be looked at very differently in the digital world

When I first came across AGILE and SCRUM some 4 years ago, the most painful question managers and leaders were raising about the topic was: ‘Am I going to be obsolete in self-organised teams?’  No, managers will not be obsolete. But their role and profile will change and has changed substantially already. Leading self-organised teams does not mean not to lead or manage at all. It means that – as one of the basic principles of systemic leadership – leaders are providing a framework for their teams to act within. Leaders are providing the general ideas and rules – like a society is based on its constitution and laws. What they do within this framework, i.e. how they set their priorities; what tasks they take on when and how; how they communicate within the team and how they organise co-operation – it is all up to them.

So what do managers and leaders need to focus on instead?

Basically, the good news is: Leaders get the chance to work even more strategically. The transactional side of management and leadership (sometimes that’s exactly the distinction that’s being made between managing and leading, by the way) will become less and less important while the transformational side of providing a strategic framework, leading through change, being a role-model etc. will become even more impactful. The challenge, though, is: Quality in leadership will, as a side-effect, also become more and more important, and organisations will need to focus much more on ensuring it. Teams may be less likely to stand in for weak managers, and authority will not do the trick any longer. Thus, creating awareness about our own style and brand and philosophy as leaders will become more and more crucial, so the much talked-about learning agility and life-long learning will become a game-changing prerequisite for great leaders.

 In her work as Executive Coach, Claudia Salowski brings in extensive experience from different executive positions within the industry as well as a wide range of related and specialized education. Her clients especially value her deep analysis of both, personal and business topics in coaching settings. She is one of the Managing Partners of Leadership Choices, an international consultancy focusing on leadership development at top management level. Claudia is a High Performance Coach and business mediator and has completed additional certifications in the areas of facilitation and quality management.