In this week’s Siemens HR Café, I joined our CHRO Judith Wiese to discuss why Siemens is moving away from the idea of a “picture of a leader” and choosing a new approach to leadership.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
The world is entering unchartered territory, and we as a company can’t rely on what worked for us in the past. Siemens has entered a “new chapter.” Our transformation is being driven by a long list of diverse, interconnected aspects: From the rapid growth of our digital business to new business models and ways of working or our conviction to do sustainable business. To be able to write this new chapter, we need to ask ourselves:
What kind of leadership will lead us to success?
Well, there are different ways to approach this question – and, to put it blunt – we decided to take an unusual one. We are moving away from the static leadership frameworks of the past and toward a dynamic new perspective on leadership. Rather than searching for “perfect leader clones,” we will promote diverse leadership styles. Our people should think about what works for them, instead of trying to fit themselves into rigid frameworks.
“Leadership comes in many shapes and forms. What we aim for is diverse leadership, situational leadership and leadership in a certain strategic context.” – Judith Wiese
Therefore, we must eliminate our previous “picture of a leader.” Instead, we want to encourage discussions to define what kind of leadership is needed in specific contexts. It’s about strength-based leadership teams aligned based on a common core.
“Leadership is not something done in the abstract. Excellent leadership must be in the context in which you are working.”
– James Isaac
What is the way forward?
This will provide a high level of freedom and accountability to our people and reflects the trust we place in them. This means the rollout needs to be approached in a different way too.
Reflecting that we want to break down hierarchies and encourage ecosystem thinking, there will not be a hierarchical top-down communications cascade. Instead, we will “silently and naturally” incorporate diverse leadership narratives into our HR processes. For example, every leadership development program and training will focus on collecting and sharing great stories and examples already out there in the businesses and regions.
“Every one of us will be asked to make this approach our own and live it to ultimately drive the transformation of Siemens. It will feel like many ‘small pebbles’ coming in from multiple angles, which steadily draw cycles in a big lake.” – Mareike Konrad
So far, we’ve had positive resonance regarding our new leadership approach and no longer having a rigid “leadership framework.” But we are also aware that higher degrees of freedom can be more difficult to communicate and integrate. That’s why the rollout is initially being supported by five dedicated workstreams (Communications, HR Business Partners, Learning and Development Programs, Growth Talks, Talent Acquisition). They will make sure we are all sharing aligned messages and that, e.g., processes for hiring and development are aligned to our new perspective on leadership.
It will be an interesting path forward, and I’m sure we will all learn a lot on this transformation journey. But I truly believe that this new leadership freedom will give us the adaptive strength to successfully encounter future situations and challenges we could never have even imagined today.