Leadership – the safe rock amid change [EN]


In our ongoing journey to explore the Dynamic Organization, which can continue to thrive and succeed in today's rapidly changing world, we have provided an overview of the nine key aspects of the Dynamic Organization. These nine aspects are Vision and Purpose, Psychological Safety, stability through Leadership, iterative and fluid operations, collaborations across organizational boundaries, true Learning Environment, value and trust-based partnerships, financial room to navigate and finally Active Sensing.

Having already published the first two in-depth articles (all references can be found at the end of the article) on Vision and Purpose, where we've touched on the importance of Vision and Purpose as the guiding stars of resilient companies, and Psychological Safety, where we demonstrated the importance of a well working atmosphere that is based on Psychological Safety to foster innovation and well-being, in this article we explore the question of how leadership can support the Dynamic Organization by creating balance and thus a form of stability in today’s volatile world.


Leadership Mandate in Volatility


The framework in which leaders operate, their respective leadership styles and also what employees want from leadership are almost infinitely diverse in detail, just as people and their characteristics are infinitely diverse. In our day-to-day work as management consultants, we encounter at least a slightly different leadership style in every company, in every division, department, team and contact person. However, if we take a somewhat less granular approach to typology, prototypes of leadership emerge, of which two types seem to dominate, especially in recent years.


The first type, let's call it the American style, deliberately stereotyping it, is characterized by a strong appearance, clear announcements, high self-confidence and yet an impressive amount of charisma. Leaders who act according to this pattern stand clearly in front of the team, make direct announcements, show where things are going and are "doers" themselves.

The second type, also referred to here in a deliberately stereotypical way as the European style, is characterized by a high degree of participation. The atmosphere in the team is very important for such a leader, as is the further development of employees. Decisions are often made by consensus and the guiding principle is empowerment.

Both of these styles have their justification, both of these styles have their advantages. The American style is fast and active. The clarity and conviction with which a direction is given conveys security - regardless of whether the manager himself is really sure of it. The European style generally finds it much easier to create an environment of Psychological Safety. Employees feel less pressure and can contribute more of themselves and their own thoughts, which often leads to a higher level of commitment. In addition, more voices and views are heard in this style and the risk of having a blind spot when making decisions is reduced.


In its reversal, the strength of one style then shows the weakness of the other style. The European style must always be careful to move forward quickly enough and maintain a clear thread, it becomes particularly dangerous when a team led by this style gets a sense of arbitrariness. The American style runs the risk of ignoring things in the decision-making process, as such a leader relies solely on its own opinion. Furthermore, this style faces the danger that the team, even if it has a common thread, gets the feeling of being controlled purely top-down and has no opportunity for real participation.


These weaknesses of each style clearly show why a moderate combination of both styles is most promising for long-term success. The magic word here is balance. But balance is difficult because it requires constant adjustment. In less turbulent times than the ones we are experiencing, a situational shift from one style to the other is sufficient and there is enough time to counteract it. In constantly and rapidly changing times, or in a crisis, maintaining a balance by constantly adjusting is essential. But what does this leadership style look like in its balance?


The Anatomy of Responsive Leadership


In order to be truly successful, key preconditions must be fulfilled. Firstly, a convincing vision and purpose is needed, which is translated appropriately for the team being led by the leader (see the second article of this series), and secondly, a psychologically safe environment (see the third article of this series) is needed for the people being led, in which information is shared openly and transparently in all directions. It is therefore clear where you want to go, and the necessary information flows function in order to make decisions with all the information available in the team. Maintaining these preconditions alone is a challenging leadership task.

In addition, it is necessary for the leader to manage the day-to-day life of the led team, i.e. to translate long-term goals into short-, medium- and long-term activities and to repeatedly clarify the overall picture to the team. This is exactly where the differentiation happens. Ideas, suggestions, and initiatives from the team that serve to reach the Vision must be taken up by the manager, directed into the right channels and supported with the manager's perspective. This acceptance and approval of activities that originate from the team tends to emphasize the style previously described as European. The side described as American becomes more apparent in what follows. After initial learning experiences with the activities that have been started, courage is needed. It takes courage to stay on the ball when faced with challenges and to cross critical thresholds until success is achieved; it takes courage to consistently end activities that have been started when problems are too great and not to generate any further sunk costs. And this must again be accompanied by team involvement, a constant return to the central theme and appreciative communication. It should be emphasized that it is not a bad thing that an activity that has been started is ended, but that it is valuable that a potentially value-creating activity has been started.


Ultimately, it can be broken down to the fact that the success factors are the motivating thread, honest but appreciative communication – listening to and becoming a resonance body for your team – and, in particular, constant balancing in view of all the information available at the time. In a world where disruptions are the norm Leadership isn’t solely about leading from the front with unwavering determination, neither it is solely about empowering your team and making joint decisions. It is about fostering a sense of security, cultivating a robust platform for making the best possible decisions to navigate these uncertain waters together while staying on course.


This change in leadership tasks is supported by scientific research on the competencies and skills most needed by modern leaders. In recent years, elements such as self-management, communication skills and employee empowerment have increasingly come into focus 1,2,3. However, most existing research fails to implement necessary leadership skills into a holistic perception of newly thought organizations or derives its insights from employee and management surveys, which inevitably leads to distortions. The leadership style within a Dynamic Organization needs to embody characteristics that resonate with the needs of a volatile environment and the characteristics of the organization itself.


Adaptability: Leaders must be flexible and adaptable, ready to pivot strategies based on market shifts or team insights. The ability to pivot swiftly in response to changing conditions is crucial in navigation volatile times.


Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Understanding the team’s concerns, fears, and aspirations, and responding to these sensitively is crucial. It requires a blend of empathy and emotional intelligence, recognizing that the team is a human network with diverse needs.


Transparency and Communication: Open, transparent communication fosters a sense of unity and trust within the team, diminishing uncertainties and ambiguities. The clarity in communication serves as the anchor in choppy waters.


Collaborative Decision-Making: Leaders need to facilitate collective decision-making processes, encouraging teamwork and involving team members in critical discussions. This involvement helps build ownership and commitment.


Strategic Patience: Leadership in turbulent times demands strategic patience, knowing when to hold back and when to act, carefully balancing risk and stability. This patience isn’t passive, it’s strategic and deliberate.


Openness: Managers need to be open to tackling new challenges with new methods and constantly re-evaluate which of the available options represents the best possible solution. Relying on the tried and tested quickly means falling behind the competition.


If these aspects of leadership behavior can be deeply and comprehensively anchored in the company and meaningfully linked with the culture and further formative elements that really take the needs of the employees into account, a solid basis for successful, modern leadership is created.


Practical Steps to Implement Responsive Leadership


As different as all people are, so different is every leader. Accordingly, social systems are a potentiation of this diversity and sound leadership development must always be adapted to the individual situation. This is becoming increasingly difficult, as today's developments also have an impact on this aspect. An ever-increasing diversity is created by a wide variety of training and further education, as well as previous experience, etc. However, some core starting points to implement the described kind of leadership can be identified.


Leadership role modeling: Higher management levels must serve as role models to foster a culture of trust and openness. Through active engagement in transparent communication processes, they can set the tone for the entire organization.


Leadership development: Implementing such a leadership style, after setting the direction, starts with leadership development. Training, workshops, and mentoring programs aimed at fostering communication, empathy and strategic patience are critical.


Communication and feedback: Leaders must learn to actively listen and establish regular feedback mechanisms. The focus is on creating open channels of communication to understand and address employees’ concerns and suggestions.


Team empowerment Managers should learn to provide teams with appropriate autonomy within clearly defined boundaries. This allows teams to innovate and make decisions within a structured framework.


Implementation across the organization: The introduction of this leadership style requires training and education programs at various levels of the organization to ensure consistent implementation. This also includes a corresponding learning path for new managers and regular follow-up of the core elements.


Structural adjustments: In addition, existing organizational and procedural regulations must be put to the test and honestly questioned as to whether they support the desired management style or possibly even work against it. If a need is identified, adjustment measures must be introduced as quickly as possible, as behavior always arises in interaction with the given system.


The take aways


In the midst of the current volatile climate, leaders must find a balanced approach between inspiration and caution, between fast decisions and adjustments and staying on course, sticking to a north star, between honest communication about uncertainties and providing security. By implementing the shown leadership style, a Dynamic Organization can lay the foundations for stability in the midst of change by empowering teams, providing certainty and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration. In this way, organizations can effectively navigate through the tumultuous times of uncertainty and create stability within the change.


Former articles

The Dynamic Organization: https://www.santiago-advisors.com/neuigkeiten/detail/the-dynamic-organization

Crafting Vision and Purpose: https://www.santiago-advisors.com/neuigkeiten/detail/crafting-vision-and-purpose-en

Nurturing Psychological Safety in the Innovation Era: https://www.santiago-advisors.com/neuigkeiten/detail/nurturing-psychological-safety-in-the-innovation-era-en


1Dweck, C. (2016). What having a „Growth Mindset” Actually Means, in: Harvard Business Review, 13(2), 2–5.

2Hesse, F. & Bruch H. (2021). New-Leadership Kompetenzen, in Personalmagazin 11, 54–58.

3Bruch, H. & Barton, L. (2023). Leadership im Umbruch. Fünf Trends einer modernen Führung, in: Personalführung 2, 16–23.



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