The digital change is more than just working with an Internet connection. It is changing the world of work at a rapid and unstoppable speed. Where once in  Organizations with control committees and managers were often communicated analogously, there are now networked and project-oriented companies that communicate with one another on the basis of technology. For this there is the buzzword of e-leadership.

Definition of e-leadership

Electronic leadership or e-leadership does not describe a specific management approach, but specific contextual conditions of leadership and associated special ones Requirements for leadership strategies. This chapter does not use a individual management concept presented, but several management strategies discussed,  that are suitable for electronically mediated collaboration (Hertel and Lauer).
Also delivers  Draws one  E-leadership definition: Management takes place in organizations on various hierarchical levels and ranges from top management to middle management to department and team management. Compared to classic leadership, which is mainly realized in direct face-to-face interaction, e-leadership differs in particular in terms of it  the parameters: digitality, leadership and performance.

E-leadership in a nutshell

The definitions are quite similar. It means, for example, that a team leader increasingly communicates with his partners and employees through electronic media. He’s sitting almost like in a small virtual cell.

E-leadership means that a manager often communicates with his or her environment via digital channels and practically sits in a digitally isolated room (source: own illustration, inspired by Konstruhrdt)

 Digital self-organization

Organizations as we know them are often typical  Equipped with top-down processes. Now this is giving way to digital self-organization. So Drawshardt says: A look into practice shows that digitality is increasingly leading to a traditional understanding of hierarchical organizational structures changing and legitimizing power being weakened or even reversed. Some modern executives in the digital economy even deliberately forego legitimation power in order to encourage their employees to perform. A vivid example of such an e-leader is WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. His employees work mobile and project-based without any time or space restrictions: There are no offices, no fixed working hours and internal communication takes place via the company’s own chat system and blogs.
This is exactly what my picture above shows. Such tool landscapes in particular can also promote grassroots democracy in the company, according to Konstruhardt. It was similar to you in mine Article with Dr. Andreas Zeuch discussed.  Swarm intelligence is also possible through digital technologies and networking. Of course, there are also risks, including the misuse of the transparency of these technologies. More on that in mine Articles about the digital workplace .

E-leadership in practice

How is e-leadership designed in practice? What skills and behaviors does such an e-leader need? I found the following at Hertel and Lauer. So this is how these digital leaders should behave to meet the definition above. These are recommendations as to which executives should help.

  • Change from a directive to a participatory and supportive attitude among managers.
  • Increasing importance of socio-emotional relationship management; among other things for the timely detection of undesirable developments.
  • Promotion of independence of employees, also in terms of responsible self-management.
  • Media literacy, in particular with regard to electronic communication media; It’s not just about how different tools work technically, but above all about what their socio-emotional effects can be; ie how and when they should be used sensibly.
  • Interest in technological developments and openness to new forms of work – not at any price, but after carefully weighing up time and costs (also for employees) and potential profits.

Conclusion: e-leadership is still in its infancy

Currently, e-leadership is still in its infancy and we have to see whether this term really catches on or whether it becomes digital leadership. But here too, according to Hertel and Lauer: The rapid development and differentiation of new forms of work requires very flexible management strategies that differ depending on the type and characteristics of virtuality  seem to make sense.
In the end, Laudon sums it up very well: To the same extent that digitization is completely turning the business models of traditional industries upside down, the understanding of the leadership and management skills behind them must also change. In addition to the modified professional approach, the new competence requirements for leadership behavior should be given the same importance.
Therefore, according to Laudon, the following is recommended  Questions to ask:

  • How do I “disturb” a complacent resting in the status quo?
  • Do I approach each task with a clear agenda of things that need to be done better and done differently?

You can tell that something is changing. This change is favored by digital technologies and we are talking about a digital change that also affects leadership. E-leadership deals with one aspect of change: namely the increasing networking via mobile technologies, which leads to digital leadership or e-leadership. Here are links to the two books used:

[werbung] Image source: People photo created by freepik –
Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Grote, S. (2012). The future of leadership Springer Gabler

Jochmann, W. and Böckenholt, I (2016). HR excellence Springer Gabler

Künzel, H. (2015). Success factor performance management Springer Gabler


I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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