Got a few geniuses at the top and all the latest machines and technology? These days you need more than that. Power is increasingly shifting to the invisible side of organisations. To the way you connect. And that requires a new form of leadership, moving away from the traditional control & command approach where a leader ‘gives his troops orders’.

Want your business to get a competitive edge? That’s easier said than done these days. In many cases, your competitors have access to the same technology and know-how as you have.

“Even with a few bright minds, your organisation no longer automatically stands out”, says Katleen De Stobbeleir, professor at the Vlerick Business School. “Much of what is discussed today behind closed boardroom doors is public tomorrow.”

Daniel Ek (the founder of Spotify) put it this way during a visit last year: “Anyone who follows Spotify a bit knows what our next strategic move will be. Moreover, our competitors are using the same technology as us. It’s our people who make the difference: every one of us shares a passion for music. What lets us always stay one step ahead of our competitors is the fact that we are all connected.” “Therefore, one of the most important goals of leadership is to drive empowerment throughout the organisation”, continues Katleen De Stobbeleir.

The invisible side of organisations

Whatever sector your company belongs to, the building blocks of your organisation will probably not be very different from those of your competitors. “The distinction is mainly in how you connect and link those building blocks, i.e., in the more invisible side of your organisation, your culture, the way you treat each other. You create those connections not with products, services or technology, but with the people in your organisation. And that calls for a more contemporary form of leadership”, Katleen De Stobbeleir points out.

“In a previously much more predictable world, a command & control approach was a logical choice. Think about a bank. You used to know who your competitors were: they were other banks. Today, things are not so obvious. Apple and Amazon, for example, also offer financial services. And then we have fintechs, insurtechs, wealthtechs … all of them changing the rules of the game. Consultants are having to compete with finfluencers on YouTube. And so on and so forth. These days, you need more than that one genius at the top who ‘tells his troops what to do’.”

More than ‘working together better’

The traditional way of looking at leadership is changing. Or better: has to change. “To thrive in unpredictable and disruptive times, organisations must not only be flexible and creative, allowing them to adapt and evolve quickly. For transformation and evolution to be possible, everyone must feel commitment. That’s essentially what connecting leadership is all about”, Katleen De Stobbeleir explains. “And that goes much further than ‘working together better’. It’s all about connecting with people.”

Connecting leadership begins with self-reflection, with linking your own aspirations to those of your company and bringing the two closer together. It is also about connecting with others and with the goals you are working for together. Ultimately, it’s also about connecting with the future.

The ‘Connecting leadership’ training programme

Vlerick and De Tijd are organising a training programme from 18 April to 27 June on connecting leadership. The programme consists of eight online modules, three webinars and two live events. “In the training sessions, we go into more detail on exactly how to build those connections. Backed by practical examples, you will gain insights into the dynamics of connecting leadership. For instance: How do you initiate change in your own business? How do you get people on board? How do you overcome blockages? You will take home insights from our eight professors, as well as from colleagues from the many other companies you’ll meet during the programme.”

To create an environment in which connecting leadership can grow and flourish, leadership must be holistic and inclusive. Therefore, the training programme is not just for the happy few at the top. Connecting leaders need to be developed throughout the organisation. Therefore, experienced professionals who do not (yet) have a role in people management are especially welcome.


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