How to unboss: Three proposals on modern leadership style

Success through innovation, leading with passion and putting people into focus: Hildegard Wortmann and Cawa Younosi met at the Bits & Pretzels 2020 to share their perception on “agile leadership”. Both are in management positions, and both are breaking new ground – in their own unique way.

10/08/2020 Reading Time: 3 min

A small studio and camera instead of a big stage and audience: the setting for the Audi discussion panel at the Bits & Pretzels 2020 is unusual and new. The camera stands in a room on the company grounds of Werksviertel München. Industrial style meets employees with beards or braces. And everywhere you can feel the start-up spirit of Bits & Pretzels. The perfect environment for a conversation about passionate leadership as a key to success.

Hildegard Wortmann and Cawa Younosi are in the best of moods and looking forward to exchanging ideas with each other. Both of them have only been in virtual contact – via LinkedIn. Younosi, the “HR punk” − he wears a T-shirt with this imprint − is Head of HR at SAP and has been using humour to shake up the HR scene for years.

Leadership in times of corona: trust is the be-all and end-all

The first issue to be discussed is the current situation regarding corona. It has had a major impact on the leadership culture − in fact, it has been the driving force for certain values. According to Wortmann, the past few months, in particular, have shown who is well suited as a leader. “Despite the spatial distance between them, managers and employees have continued to grow closer together,” says the Board Member for Sales and Marketing at Audi.

Three proposals for New Leadership: this is why an agile management style is needed

In times of globalization, digitalization and social media, everything has become faster. Companies as well as managers have to respond immediately and flexibly, adapt to changing situations and take new, and even risky, paths. This also includes adopting an agile style of management. Wortmann calls this “unbossing”. After all, it is essential for managers and employees to see each other as equals for there to be an atmosphere in which innovation can thrive. With agile leadership, the individual employee is given more professional responsibility − at the same time, the boss relinquishes some control and relies on trust. “Especially in the automotive industry, everything is changing – and so it is particularly important to be open to new ideas from every employee,” explains Wortmann.

Hildegard Wortmann from Audi and Cawa Younosi from SAP talking
Discussing agile leadership: Hildegard Wortmann from Audi and Cawa Younosi from SAP in conversation at the Bits & Pretzels 2020.

One conversation – three proposals: What is important for a modern management style becomes clear in the dialogue between Hildegard Wortmann and Cawa Younosi at Bits & Pretzels:

1. Trust and empathy as a basis

For both managers, emotional intelligence is the fundamental basis for “unbossing leadership”. Wortmann explains: “Listening to each other, learning from one another and exchanging ideas on equal footing − this is the only way we can drive innovation, work flexibly and take our company to a new level.” Younosi adds: “Since corona, there has been a new kind of trust and consideration towards each other − and that is crucial. After all, innovation can only flourish if there is a good atmosphere at work.”

2. Diversity as a driver of innovation

“Anyone can have good ideas − no matter what position, background, age or gender,” says Younosi. Diversity is also essential for innovation and brings a new level of energy to every company. If everyone in the company is able and allowed to remain authentic, this promotes diversity. “Authenticity and passion in management style are key to corporate success and innovative business models,” Wortmann emphasizes.

3. Change as an opportunity

The most important thing for both experts is that companies and managers must be open to change. “Change is a good thing – only if we think like this, we develop and evolve,” explains Younosi. “We must always remain curious and above all take an outside-in perspective,” adds Wortmann. No matter whether it’s marketing or human resources: people and their needs must be at the center of things – both the customer and the employee.

Goal: establishing a start-up culture in the company

The three proposals show that the start-up spirit of the factory district and the Bits & Pretzels are perfectly suited to the two managers. Agile working methods, flat hierarchies and a cooperative management style − these are precisely the characteristics, that make start-ups so fast-moving, adaptable and successful.

Audi at the Bits & Pretzels 2020: with even more start-up spirit

Viewers were able to follow a total of six online discussions from Audi on the subject of “Living Progress”. An overview is available in the video and in the press release.

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