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  • Writer's pictureSenix Digital

Intelligent Leadership in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

The future does not lie in our past. It emerges from it.  Since the introduction of steam powered machinery in the late 18th century, industrialisation continues to propel civilisation forward.

Leadership must be believed and lived. If we want to shape the digital future, we also need people to realise new business models, processes and (AI) systems, who not only can live this thinking in their “minds”, but also realise it.

To achieve this goal, we need a new systematic education in (high) schools, families, administration and economics that empower people to move away from the current one-way street to a permanent growth thinking mindset. And for that, the radical confusions must be first understood with a leadership learning program in our heads. Lifelong learning with others, knowledge about climate change, health and simulation work with computers / machines / robots is becoming a “must”.

The Transformative Problem

Cooperative, interdisciplinary teamwork, responsible and autonomous work design are becoming increasingly important. So that the leadership needs to strengthen cooperation, identification and trust. Short innovation cycles and personalised products require tailor-made qualification measures. New forms of work such as shared / part-time leadership, virtual and networked teamwork can then be tangibly experienced.

Responsibility and control are shifted to where the work is done – even if it can be done by robots. In this way, networked communication, fluid form of project work in networks along the value chain is becoming increasingly important – both analogue and digital.

Managers not only have to master the tools of the “old world”, such as KPI orientation, top-down communication and control, but they must have flexible skills that enable them to lead in both organisational worlds. Self-control skills, holistic thinking and acting, self and other perception and the defence of our culture of values ​​are in the foreground.

Risk-seeking leaders are highly wanted

Most companies are run by risk avoiders rather than those ready to plunge into an uncertain digital future. We cannot deny that with investments in new (digital) business models, companies / organisations continue to struggle very hard. On the one hand, they do not want to attack their existing business model themselves, but on the other hand, they also have problems identifying new, high-yield models. Often, the assistance of upper management is lacking, not only to force the necessary cultural change but also to be able to try out potentially risky models. Established companies at this point have a disadvantage compared to digital innovators who neither have to change a traditional leadership culture nor defend an established business model.

Many companies are finding that there is a lack of appropriate leaders who have the transformational leadership key skills for the future. They need leaders who no longer think and act one-dimensionally, but multi-dimensionally. Hierarchies then become much flatter, the processes and services faster and more meaningful.

Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution is defined by the ability to rapidly align & engage empowered, networked teams with clarity of purpose and fierce resolve to win.

Digital transformation is not without inspiration

According to a study by the World Economic Forum Davos, “Digital Transformation Initiative” companies are the most successful with the business model of the “Digital Platform”. But how is that supposed to work? How do you come to a “new” thinking and acting? In “ancient Rome,”, they all ended up sitting in their mansions on their infinite wealth – but in their heads they were poor. This is how the kingdom went down.

So, it is only with an interdisciplinary cooperation and with a cross-industry cooperation that you can go further. Working together with intelligent information and innovation platforms, high standards and clear rules (Code of Conduct) is essential to enable the interaction of users and suppliers (best practices) of machinery and automation components, suppliers and competitors.

Employee and customer cantering at eye level are the magic word. Customers or partners have to be involved early on in the development of a new product or a new service and network with it. Many companies are missing strategic opportunities here.

Thus, it is necessary not only to improve the employees’ professional competences, but above all their social / emotional competencies, so that they can understand the different views and ideas of the stakeholders, such as: Operators, manufacturers, suppliers, IT / cyber specialists and can handle the cross-functional interaction compliant.


One thing is for sure: If we want to shape our future successfully, then change must not only bring about the fastest possible (digital) technological solutions for customers and the environment, but also the radical change in the mindset of the management team and skilled workers. This requires “inspirational” leaders in the workforce who intelligently network, support and develop the right creative minds across all departmental, hierarchical and national boundaries. The future viability of an economy and society is therefore determined by whether the companies and public administrations want to master this so-called value-based double digital transformation.

Source: Oxford Leadership Research – Leadership 4.0 : A review of the thinking

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