Madeleine Bernhard. Director of the Bucerius Center on the Legal Professions.
Professor Bernhardt began by describing the three levels of leadership that together will be essential qualities in tomorrow’s leaders: Reflecting, Relating, and Connecting.
Bernhardt emphasized the importance of integrity when engaging with people. She highlighted that a key element for successful leadership, especially concerning organizational transformation, is being aware of the effect of one’s own thoughts, emotions, and communication on behavior in complex situations. Additionally, she pointed out that effective leaders should reflect on their role as models of behavior to enable change and growth in others while using their own experiences to make better decisions and ground their behaviors.
Ensuring that growth in others so they can thrive in complexity requires a psychologically safe and collaborative environment. To truly relate, future leaders must be aware if their impact on those around them starts to diminish, despite their best intentions and efforts. An adaptive culture empowers individuals and drives innovation.
Leading is about connecting, the professor emphasized, fostering conversations among peers to learn from each other while proactively seeking changes or threats in the ecosystem that has been created, as well as innovative strategies for future growth.
These three levels of leadership are interdependent, creating a complex scenario for leaders that can lead to uncertainty and impatience – dangers for effective leadership. Traditional leadership behaviors may include presenting too many ideas, discouraging others from sharing theirs, or taking on work that should be delegated to others. Furthermore, traditional leaders may push their teams so hard that they exhaust them, worsening their performance rather than enhancing it. The professor urged specific measures to counteract these detrimental behaviors, such as critically examining our own thoughts, avoiding impulsive actions, and filtering our own beliefs.
The final measure Professor Bernhardt recommended for leaders was accepting their teams’ opinions, guiding them instead of just training them. The worst thing they can do is face a challenge assuming that previously successful solutions will work again, or doing nothing at all.