Monday 17 October 2016

Digital Leadership in the Plastics Industry – A chance to speed up innovation?

In this blog post I show you how in my opinion Digital Leadership approaches the plastics industry. Digital Leadership - some of us might have already heard of it. One definition is that Digital Leadership is a fast, above hierarchy and team-based leadership concept, which aims to speed up innovations in companies. It is not strictly connected to digitalize the existing business model. It is about applying new methods and different instruments to analyze data [1].

In a survey of the German Society for Employee Leadership, differences between the classic leadership (known by all of us) and the Digital Leadership were shown. I have summarized some important ones in the following table [2].

Area of Difference

Traditional Leadership

Digital Leadership


Taking up tasks is strictly predefined. Crossing a line leads to conflicts.

Taking up tasks depends on the situation. The competences of managers and employees are connected to a given situation.


The manager controls the jobs, the resources and the interpretation of results.

The manager controls the coordination of jobs and respective resources. The interpretation of results is made together with the employees.

Goals and Review of Employees

Review of individual employees in fixed time intervals.

Dynamic review of the team and individuals in parallel.


Keep budget and quality on a stable level and minimize risks. This blocks space for creativity.

Digital leaders increase the level of awareness for change and keep the necessary competences for up-to-date changes.

Consumer electronics and automotive companies have managed to greatly reduce their time to market and now these expect that surrounding industries, such as the plastics industry are able to keep up.
The drift towards Digital Leadership has already started in the plastics industry, however, the most significant steps need yet to happen on the structural level of companies. Useless department structures need to be accessed and dismantled in order to set up a companywide network. This is expected to allow a new way of working more flexible and effective towards innovations. The collection, exchange and analysis of data together with the customers will be a key part of successfully rolling out Digital Leadership in the plastics industry.

Greetings & till next time!

[2] Prof. Dr. Rolf Van Dick: Umfrage der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Personalführung (DGFP) et al.

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