Leadership must make sense - Interview with Gabriele and Georg Leppelmann

Picture of Georg Leppelmann

Georg Leppelmann

December 17, 2021

It has long been known that the world is becoming increasingly uncertain - the new German term VUCA. This has now also manifested itself in everyone's lives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. What must leadership achieve in an uncertain and complex world? Gabriele and Georg Leppelmann address this question in their article "Security in uncertainty - a map for leadership in self-organization" in the TCI volume "Agility in companies". It is particularly important that, despite all the flexibility and agility, the vision, the view of the big picture, is not lost.

Joint tasks can only be accomplished with personal responsibility

Katja Heumader: We live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) - has the coronavirus pandemic and the associated conditions and restrictions exacerbated these characteristics?

Georg Leppelmann: Yes, the pandemic has focused our attention like a magnifying glass on the fact that the world is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, intertwined and ambiguous. The situation affects all areas of our lives and many people are looking for stability and direction in these times. At the same time, it is becoming clear how important it is to fight the pandemic together. And we must recognize that we need to adapt our behavior better, faster and more flexibly to drastic changes.

KH: We can only fight corona by adapting our behavior - as far as possible on our own responsibility! - adapt. Can we derive any insights for modern leadership from this?

Gabriele Leppelmann: We can see what happens when people lose their sense of personal responsibility due to excessive control and restrictions. However, what is needed to accomplish a common task is coordinated and autonomous action.

Modern leadership, as we understand it, therefore creates a framework that enables this personal responsibility. For example, people need a sense of security in order to act creatively and with a focus on solutions. Leadership can also convey this security in the face of uncertainty. To this end, we place particular emphasis in our leadership scheme on making the purpose of joint tasks transparent. And at the same time on measures that strengthen mutual trust. After all, when it comes to tackling joint tasks, it is ultimately down to each individual taking responsibility for their own implementation.

We need visions that unite us

KH: Our vision for "after Corona" is the removal of all restrictions - regaining all our freedom. What visions are suitable for ensuring that everyone in companies pulls together?

GEL: Even after corona, the world will be no less VUCA and companies will have to master difficult tasks. This requires visions that are shared by as many people as possible. It is therefore important that common ground is strengthened as early as the vision development stage. Because in a jointly developed vision, everyone finds themselves and has a place. And shared tasks become meaningful for everyone and can be better implemented independently.

KH: What importance do visions, a big picture, have at SAFe® in?

GEL: According to the principles of agile frameworks such as SAFe®, a vision is created together, step by step, and is continuously developed at all levels of the company. The process of joint development plays an important role in this. By involving people in the development, the big picture provides both security and more effective orientation. Especially in small-step agile work, it is important that the big picture is not lost.

KH: The Intuition has been experiencing a revival in management in recent years - what role does it play in SAFe® and other agile regulations?

GAL: Intuition determines a large part of human thinking. For the most part, decisions are made unconsciously and are based on simple rules of thumb. The more complex problems become and the faster decisions have to be made, the more important intuition becomes. Particularly in the VUCA world, where quick decisions often have to be made on an uncertain basis, greater reliance on intuitive knowledge can save time and therefore valuable resources. If there are clearly defined problems and clever algorithms to solve them, then the algorithm should be used. However, the agile approach is usually about solutions that only emerge during implementation. The path that is created while walking, so to speak. An intuitive approach is always needed to quickly decide on the right fork in the road.

KH: Thank you very much for your time and your comments.

The interview with Gabriele Leppelmann and Prof. Dr. Georg Leppelmann was conducted by Dr. Katja Heumader for the TCI editorial team.

"Agility in companies": theoretically sound and practical

Agility in companies Book cover
Picture: © Springer Verlag

The focus of "Agility in Companies" is on the practical application of the concepts. In addition to an introduction to the theoretical foundations, the contributors to the anthology cover various areas: Corporate and personnel management, organizational management, evaluation and controlling, decision-making behavior, roles in projects and the management of business processes.

"Agility in Companies" is aimed at internal and external practitioners for whom transformation management is at the center of their tasks. Coaches, business managers, managing directors and other decision-makers will benefit from the comprehensive perspectives in this anthology, as will academics and lecturers specializing in organization, agile management, project management, business management, change management, product management, development, process management and strategic management.

Note from the editors:

Buy the entire book or individual chapters directly here as eBook for Euro 46.99 (complete edition) or Euro 26.70 (individual chapters)!

Or order the anthology as a high-quality Hardcover for Euro 59,99!

Source cover image: © Jacob Lund | Adobe Stock

About the author

Picture of Georg Leppelmann

Georg Leppelmann

TCI Partner Dr. Georg Leppelmann supports banks and service providers with systemic and solution-focused concepts as NLP Master, Agile Scrum Master and Product Owner. The goals: Lively cooperation and leadership with purpose.

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