Modern day leaders need to master it all
In the past a manager could simply concentrate on leading from the top. If you took care of your own part of the business, the synergy would come together all by itself – at least that was the theory. And to a certain degree it worked just fine – but the times have changed and the demand for some different leadership skills have emerged along with them.
And so, even if leading from above remains relevant, the modern leader must be now able to lead upwards, downwards, outwards and across.
It is the leader’s job to create strategic musicality, so that the organisation becomes a single symphony-like unit
And that demands some new skills.
“It is necessary to raise your eyes above your own team and start to lead upwards. You need to carry a vision, strategy, company values and a culture and lead outwards, to take care of external stakeholders,” says Henrik Holt Larsen, expert in management and professor emeritus at Copenhagen Business School.
“Last but not least, you must connect your own team to other sub-units. It is the leader’s job to create strategic musicality, so that the organisation becomes a single symphony-like unit that works closely together with the surroundings – for example, through co-creation, where people from outside the organisation are involved in solving the challenges of the company.”
If you help your colleagues, you help yourself
When you lead your team or department from the top the results of your efforts are clear and you, as leader, are responsible if things go wrong. But the new demands placed on managers can be confusing and it can almost seem impossible to know how to proceed.
This is especially true for middle management, who can feel that upward leadership is required and expected of them, but leading from above is what still really matters.
“For this type of leadership to work out, top management should use every opportunity to describe the totem pole which everyone is supposed to be dancing around. It should be a credible and desirable journey and management can’t step off the trail in the way they actually lead. Middle managers must experience being rewarded and appreciated for leading upwards,” explains Henrik Holt Larsen.
“You need to create a company culture of unity. So, if you support and contribute to the success of the group, you are also helping yourself because it is much more fun and rewarding to work for (and with) a company which you can identify yourself with, and be proud of. It is not impossible, but to benefit from these four roles of leadership the company needs to support those efforts.”