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Interview: Dr. Matthias Reuter on the changing face of leadership development

Dr. Matthias Reuter is global head of leadership excellence at Siemens. In his talk on learning and development in the digital age on day two at UNLEASH World Conference in October 2019, he’ll be discussing how digital technology is enabling organisations to optimise the potential of their people.

Here, he speaks to HRZone about the challenges of digital transformation and how Siemens is using this opportunity.

21st Oct 2019
Editor HRZone
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Dr Matthias Reuter

Tell us about yourself and your role. What has driven you to focus your career on leadership development?

I was appointed to my current role in April this year, with a focus on developing enterprise level leaders and transforming leadership to master digital transformation. Over the last three years I was the global learning and transformation manager at Siemens, where I lead the co-creation of a digital capability programme across the company.

In a digital world with increasing unpredictability and speed, careers become less linear, more individual and disrupted. To succeed in this environment, it’s all about people and unleashing their potential.

One thing became obvious through the rollout. New leadership and a complete re-evaluation of behaviours are key to future success. I’m a true believer in continuous learning as the driving force to unleash human potential.

You’ll be discussing the issue of building digital capability among leaders at UNLEASH World Conference 2019. Why is this a key L&D focus for Siemens?

Digitalisation is our number one growth driver. In many regards it comes along with disruption of business and operating models. It changes the way we live, work and lead.

Leaders play a vital role in acting as role models, supporting their teams to collaborate, build networks and grow continuously. We support our leaders to succeed on this journey by connecting and enabling them in order to make real what matters.

Could you reveal a few top-line points that you’ll be discussing in the session?

It’s largely focused on two things:

1. How are digital technologies changing our daily lives?

In a digital world with increasing unpredictability and speed, careers become less linear, more individual and disrupted. To succeed in this environment, it’s all about people and unleashing their potential.

2. What does this mean for leadership and learning?

We need to completely re-evaluate the behaviours that lead to success. We especially need to rethink leadership, making the move from hierarchies to networks and collaboration. We need to connect people for innovation to emerge.

We need to lead with purpose and empower our employees to shape the transformation and also to feel that they own their careers. This means, for each of our leaders, that they get the opportunity to personally evolve.

There is no ‘old’ and ‘new’ leadership style. Different environments require different forms of leadership – that holds true for the ambiguous world we live in. It is on us to enable our leaders to explore their style – and their responsibility to adapt to new environments.

How do you think the L&D industry is responding to the digital transformation challenge? Is there a sense of fear or excitement about this opportunity?

We’ve seen a paradigm shift in the L&D industry. Digital technology is disrupting every industry and area of life. Developing the complex, hybrid, people-related skills we’ll require in the future will be one of the biggest challenges for corporations and society. At the same time, this is a huge opportunity for HR and L&D.

We need an L&D set-up that is focused on all the things needed to upskill, reskill, and engage people as they strive to be successful.

Leaders must reinforce positive learning behaviours, giving constructive and critical feedback to align employees’ efforts with the right learning objectives, showcasing curiosity.

It’s not enough to just ‘buy an LXP’ and provide lots of content for self-discovery. L&D needs to bring together curated high-quality content, instructors and experts, the full range of developmental activities, and collaborative learning.

People need all of this, plus visible certificates and rewards for advancement. This results in a culture where people take ownership of their continuous learning and development.

Nurturing a learning culture is no easy feat for L&D practitioners. What approaches are you taking at Siemens to encourage continuous learning? Are you seeing positive results?

There are a few different factors to be considered if you want to nurture curiosity and continuous learning in your employees. From an L&D perspective, aspects like employee-centric, collaborative, social, inspirational learning experience design are vital.

There’s no need to rely on your organisation’s formal learning and development programmes – it’s about encouraging self-responsibility of employees owning their development and career.

Leaders must reinforce positive learning behaviours, giving constructive and critical feedback to align employees’ efforts with the right learning objectives, showcasing curiosity.

It’s also about hiring people with a high capacity for learning, who have hungry minds – this makes it easier to create a strong learning culture within your team and your organisation. We strongly believe in leaders helping others to grow.

What other key areas should L&D be focusing on to ensure they’re providing value to the business?

HR needs to re-evaluate the behaviours that lead to success, together with the business. It’s about understanding what’s happening around us and to experience the fundamental change we need.

This means a complete shift in focus for the L&D function – away from simply delivering training, moving instead towards UX design, community management, content curation, communication and marketing. It’s also about designing learning spaces where deep learning and real change can happen.

UNLEASH World Conference takes place from 22 – 23 October in Paris. Visit unleashgroup.io/world for information.

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