• Prof. Dr. Utho Creusen

Leadership is dead, long live VIBRANT LEADERSHIP

Leadership is usually understood to be all methods of motivating guided people to achieve a set of goals.


From this basic idea, theories have been derived that deal with the following aspects of leadership:

  • the necessary professional competence

  • the behaviour

  • the management style

  • the situation

  • the system

Research in the field of leadership styles had particular flourishes. Here a new term was developed almost every year and "driven through the village". Here only the most important leadership styles:


  • autocratic

  • authoritarian

  • bureaucratic

  • charismatic

  • democratic

  • team-oriented

  • individualistic

  • participatory

  • laissez-faire

  • meaning- and value-oriented

  • situational

  • transformational

  • authentic

With the increasing complexity and exponential speed of change, there is now a need to fundamentally question the concept of leadership. The Lean Startup approach does this in a particularly radical way. It is questionable, however, whether a leadership based on Objectives and Key Results (OKR), which many authors of the start-up literature are currently postulating, does not repeat the same mistakes of the past. VIBRANT LEADERSHIP could provide an interesting perspective.


VIBRANT LEADERSHIP means the creation of meaningful learning organisations

The well-known magazine for economy, society and trade GDI IMPULS describes the methods of Liquid Leadership in issue no. 3, 2016:


  • from power to motivation

  • from extrinsic to intrinsic

  • from perfection to speed

  • from command to cooperation

  • from management to leadership

  • from instruction to self-responsibility

  • from hierarchy to network

The transition these dimensions imply clearly outlines the expectations of VIBRANT LEADERSHIP. As such they mark the necessary further development of our LEADERSHIP model: from static to dynamic.


In the meantime, there is a multitude of models and catchwords to describe leadership in today's successful companies. In order to find out what effects the new leadership has on structures and forms of organisation, we focus in particular on the following developments:


1. destruction through disruption and cannibalisation

2. acceleration through imperfection and anarchy

3. learning through networks, freedom and meaning

4. agility through swarm, trust and flow

5. decoupling of working time and place of work

6. flexibility and strengths orientation


There is no doubt that digitisation is driving competition. Competition is no longer confined to one's own industry, but is emerging across all industries. Old business models are being destroyed, new ones are emerging.


Depending on their life cycle, industries are affected at different rates. First the music industry transformed, then the taxi industry and the hotel industry were disruptively attacked. Traditional companies have only one chance to survive - by cannibalising their own old business model. Traditional corporate governance prevents an appropriate response to the process of change.

The necessary speed has already been mentioned. Networks shape the new world of work. This creates jobs without a clear organisational structure, function and leadership. It is less the organizational affiliation that is the leadership criterion than the professional expertise and solution competence. Seen from the outside, some management models could well be perceived as anarchy. This is made even more complicated by the communication between people and machines.


In VIBRANT LEADERSHIP, knowledge is not subject to hierarchical allocation. Access to knowledge can only be guaranteed by a maximum of transparency and openness. Learning takes place peer to peer and sometimes also from machines to people or vice versa. VIBRANT LEADERSHIP means the creation of meaningful learning organisations that enable responsible and free learning anywhere and anytime.


The Digital Economy develops agile methods and overcomes the accustomed zero error tolerance. Agile management methods help to achieve this. The players act quickly and learn from mistakes with great energy. This requires not only different management but also different forms of organisation. Scrum, lean start-up and design thinking are such new forms. In particular Scrum, originally from software development, has established itself as an organisational model. Special organisational functions such as the Scrum Master, the Product Owner or the development team have established themselves. Design Thinking, consisting of six clearly defined, but not linear process steps, has also become a proven organisational principle of Customer Centricity. The current boom in these methods shows that the process logic can be easily incorporated into organisational structures. However, building up structures alone is not leadership in the sense of creating flow, where the challenges correspond to one's own abilities and strengths.


VIBRANT LEADERSHIP requires new agreements, perhaps even new rules. Differentiating between employees and employers is no longer so easy, perhaps even a reversal is necessary. The employees in VIBRANT LEADERSHIP are employers in the truest sense of the word, they give their competence, intrinsic motivation, commitment and strengths, which they have carefully identified and analysed beforehand. In these organisations it is not about rewarding perfection and punishing mistakes, but about creating conditions for innovative and productive work. Of course, the organisation is independent of time and place. This is associated with a fusion of life and work. The traditional separation of these two human spheres is obsolete and with it the concept of work-life balance. VIBRANT LEADERSHIP has the goal of an optimal work-life blend.


We have thus described the first and central features of VIBRANT LEADERSHIP.



(This article was translated from German using AI)




Do you want to know more? Here are our literature tips

  • Keese, Ch. (2014). Silicon Valley. Was aus dem mächtigsten Tal der Welt auf uns zukommt. München: Albrecht Knaus Verlag.

  • Keese, Ch. (2016). Silicon Germany. Wie wir die digitale Transformation schaffen, München: Albrecht Knaus Verlag.

  • Creusen U, Bock R, Thiele C. (2013). Führung ist dreidimensional. Werteorientierte Führung mit Synercube. Windmühle Verlag, Hamburg

  • Creusen, U., Eschemann, N-R. (2008). Zum Glück gibt’s Erfolg, Wie Positive Leadership zu Höchstleistung führt, Zürich: Orell Füssli Verlag AG

  • Hastings, R., Meyer, E. (2020). No Rules. Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. Penguin Press, New York