Leadership-Switch. Does leadership have to change?

May 4, 2021 | Leadership and Organizational Development

Leaders often look for the ultimate solution to their leadership situations. But they do not exist (unfortunately). Nevertheless, leadership performance can be actively improved at all levels of an organization. It is very important to consider the leader’s respective context: Who do they interact with? What is their goal? How can they support employees or the respective team in order to find a solution?

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For coaching to work, there is one important success factor: The executive or leader must be willing to be coached. They have to open up to and trust the consultant or coach. Coaching is a very individual and personal matter.

Fully developing “leadership” effectiveness

Projects within a leadership context have very different objectives. Sometimes it is about finding a better organizational structure, sometimes it is about optimizing performance and target achievement, sometimes communication or decision-making processes need to be developed. Despite this range of topics, typical patterns emerge for many leaders, which prevents them from fully developing “leadership” effectiveness.

Many executives claim that as leaders they know the solution and then “dictate” it to the team or employees. In itself a positive driver. Often, an employee who used to be one of the top experts as an engineer is promoted to a manager. These kind of leaders also love technology. They are often tempted to simply tell employees the solution.

Some employees take advantage of this and ask the manager, “What would you do?” In this case, the manager must resist the temptation to give the solution right away. Instead, they must make employees responsible for finding the solution themselves and support the process to get there. If this does not happen, the pattern is reinforced. Because this essentially confirms the manager’s claim: “They need me. They can’t do it without me.” They then feel even more willing to maintain this pattern.

The coach or trainer must hold up a mirror to the leader: “Look at the game that is being played here, by you, but also by your employees and teams.” The coach needs to bring the manager out of their own comfort zone and into the learning zone. This is not always fun. And it can even hurt at times.

But if the pattern is not broken, employees may begin to switch off. They will no longer take responsibility because “the boss will fix it.” They will simply wait and will not or cannot continue to evolve. This may be OK for some, but most employees will be frustrated because their potential cannot be developed.

The three levels of leadership

The leader is and remains the basis for establishing a sustainable improvement process. The leader places responsibility as far down the hierarchy as possible and acts as a mentor to empower employees. Leaders accompany employees by using questioning techniques in problem solving and thereby strengthening employees.

In addition to the manager, however, the “team” aspect is also important. It is often underestimated. Here is an example: A board of directors consists of three people. The CEO is a doer who likes to make decisions. The COO is a people person, empathetic and always interested in how the workforce is doing. The third in the group, the CFO, is quiet, introverted – one could almost say a bit boring. For the observer (coach), the different characteristics are clearly visible. They are a good fit for their respective roles and responsibilities as CEO, COO and CFO. However, it is also important how the three of them shape their decision-making and communication processes within this diversity. This is where diversity shows its power. The three board members approach decisions from different, sometimes very different perspectives. This leads to many controversial discussions and the board is not always in agreement. At the same time, however, various aspects are included in the decision-making process from the very beginning, leading to the best results.

The third management level is the organizational level. Thus, there are the three levels: “leading yourself,” which is the personal level, “leading the team” and “leading the organization.”

Senior management also has the task of looking outward: “How is our network positioned?” “How are our collaborations performing?” “What about customers?” Management needs to keep a bird’s eye view and provide feedback to the organization on what is going on in the environment. At the same time, senior management must constantly review and evaluate, “Have we established the right organization, the right teams, the right roles, tasks and responsibilities to be successful?”

The Staufen Leadership Framework

Using experience from the last ten years, we examined which projects were particularly sustainable and successful in further developing customers and why this was the case. These projects were closely analyzed to identify the factors of success. The working model based on this was first applied internally at Staufen to train our coaches and qualify of our employees.

In discussions with our customers, we also noticed that this model offers orientation. This motivated us to document this approach in the white paper “Leadership Excellence.” We use the framework when we meet companies and organizations to look at leadership from different perspectives.

Companies deal with a wide variety of problems relating to the topic of leadership. These problems range from “my leaders aren’t effective” and “our organizational model does not fit” to “we need a different structure” or “we are not achieving our goals.” The problems are very diverse. At the same time, however, the ideas for solving problems are often very narrow. Many times, companies do not include the full range of opportunities, interdependencies and interactions in their supposed solutions.

The Staufen Leadership Framework helps illuminate the starting point from a holistic perspective. For example, if a customer requires a qualification program, then the focus is on employee and/or leader competence. In order for the qualification to be relevant in practice later on, however, the organizational framework conditions necessary for the acquired competencies to actually be implemented later on must be identified.

Does Corona affect the Staufen Leadership Framework?

The framework is valid at all times, because leadership must continue in both good and bad times. A leader can’t say, “Oops, now someone else has to step up, because we’re in trouble right now.” To some extent, however, Corona has changed the objective. Many companies expect leadership to be even more closely linked to goal achievement than in the past.

The “Golden Nugget” of Leadership

In coaching and training sessions, the question regularly comes up: What is the right path to good leadership? Unfortunately, there is no universal answer.

In an initial analysis phase, it is important to get an overview of what is happening at the various levels (management levels and employee levels) in an organization. (> see Staufen Guiding Questions.

The first step – also known as the “path compass” – is to examine the initial situation. This is also referred to as “facing reality.” What is working? What is not working? Where exactly is the organization hurting? What is not going as intended or where is there a lack of direction?

The next step is to define the target image. Where does the organization or management team want to be in the next few years? What is the ambition? What are the target images?

Then we discuss which interventions are necessary to get from A to B. This can include, for example, a qualification concept or executive coaching. But it may also be that the organization needs entirely new (thinking) structures, i.e., a transformation project at a wide variety of levels.

So, all in all, making reality, the actual problem, more transparent is a very intensive process.


Remco Peters, Partner at Staufen AG,
has been working in the field of “leadership” since 2006. At that time, he worked for an automotive manufacturer and was closely involved in the introduction and implementation of Shop Floor Management (SFM). Since then, coaching and supporting executives and change processes has been his professional passion. Based on his experience from countless customer projects, he and his colleagues have developed a leadership framework that is described in the white paper “Leadership Excellence.”

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