One of my favourite words in German is “fingersptizengefuehle”.
It translates as “fingertip feeling”, and is one of five key areas critical to effective leadership culture. It refers to a leader’s / leadership group’s ability to understand their environment, and to sense emerging changes before they fully manifest.
It has never been more important – or complex than it is today.
We are all creatures of our functional, social and emotional environment. It determines how we feel, what we perceive, and in the end, what we do.
As leaders, it is our job to ensure those in our charge have environments that enable them not just to perform, but to grow – functionally through skills, socially through their circles of influence, and emotionally. It’s the only sustainable route to long term achievement.
It seems to me that it used to be much easier. As leaders, we were the prime source of information, we tended to have our teams co-located in one place, or at least a limited number of places, and we mostly dealt with them on a face to face basis. With the vast majority of communication being non verbal, that was important (we could sense issues long before they emerged)
Today, it’s different. Information (fake or otherwise) is instant and ubiquitous. As leaders, we compete for credibility with Whatsapp. Our teams are diverse and increasingly remotely located, with digital relationships more frequent than face to face.
Which means taking care, and ensuring that we are conscious of our leadership environment is critical.
If this matters to you, there’s an important book coming out at the end of the month. “Surveillance Economy” by Shoshana Zuboff. It’s a serious piece of work, and you can see a good summary of it here.
Her argument is straightforward, and compelling. Technology is enabling “surveillance capitalism”. Our ability not just to track people’s habits, but to predict them and create the digital environments in order to capitalise on those increasingly accurate predictions.
We are moving from shaping our leadership environments, to having them shaped for us by largely unaccountable others.
This is not a doomsday message, and it’s not the fault of technology, it’s technology evolution, but a leader you have an important choice.
To make sure that it’s you leading your team, not someone else.