Since the beginning of industrialisation, managers have had the primary task of increasing production and demanding top performance from their employees. Achievement of this has required a purely performance-oriented management style; an employee-oriented management style has rarely been adopted. For decades, most companies have practised a working method that leads to a strong performance culture. As such, the current predominant management style is still based on a strict hierarchical model, with a top-down leadership approach.

However, in recent years, the world of work has changed considerably. Restructuring within companies and cost-saving models are intended to render companies fit for the future. Virtual cooperation with international teams, at different locations and from different cultures, has become commonplace. Digital change is important and welcome; however, it also presents managers and employees with significant, often unpredictable, challenges. In addition, after many years of relatively reliable predictability, national and international political situations have become progressively unstable and often difficult to assess. Consequently, managers and employees are often overworked and pushed to their limits. Everyday corporate life and working atmosphere are increasingly characterised by uncertainty and stress. The traditional tasks of managers, to assign and distribute work, are no longer sufficient for maintaining a company’s competitive edge. The long-standing hierarchical management style does not have enough scope to cater for modern companies. But what is the alternative?

In order to find an answer to this question, today’s managers must ask themselves the following three questions: Are they in a position to lead and support their employees even in unstable times? How can they build trust across multiple continents via email and video calls? And how can a hierarchical leadership generation work with millennials who categorically reject a hierarchical method of leading? Digital and political changes clearly demonstrate that an employee-oriented leadership style, which has been largely neglected thus far, is precisely the style that can decisively influence the future viability of a company.

As we are no longer restricted by the previous limitations of machines, systems and capacity utilisation, we must address our own personal limits and redefine new possibilities for the world of work. The gap that the hierarchical leadership style has created over decades, between leaders and employees, can only be closed through transparency and closer relationships.

My seminar and book ‘Unlearning Hierarchy – Learning Transparency’ with the Six Leadership Competencies will help to close this gap. Leaders, in search of orientation and support during this new journey, will therein find approaches for a contemporary future-oriented way of thinking, as well as suggestions on how this can be implemented for a more transparent leadership style.


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The Six Leadership Competencies

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1. Put Employees First

New mindset: My employees are the most important thing on which I can build my success.
Personal Plan of Action: Not taking the primary position of importance.


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2. Let Employees Win

New mindset: My investment is first and foremost for the employees, their development, and careers.
Personal Plan of Action: No focus on personal advantages, profit, and recognition.


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3. Communicate with Empathy

New mindset: Treat my employees with respectful and appreciative communication.
Personal Plan of Action: To not use a tone of command or dogmatism in discussions or decisions.


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4. Show Transparency

New mindset: I want to share the most important information and thoughts with my employees.
Personal Plan of Action: To keep distance from employees at a minimum and to not withhold important information.


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5. Build Trust

New mindset: My employees need clarity about my values, intentions, and promises.
Personal Plan of Action: To never deny my values or break my promises.


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6. Create Emotional Safety

New mindset: My employees need my support and protection, even in conflicts.
Personal consequence: Not to neglect the employees or be (emotionally) inaccessible to them.

Rob G. M. Bots
Senior Management Trainer and Coach

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