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Leadership 2.0 (Charles Max, Florian Feltes)

The research is focusing on the impact of Web 2.0 practices on corporate culture, more specifically on the leadership strategies of “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001). Web 2.0 is founded on principles such as collective intelligence maximization, transparency of the information creation and sharing process, and network effects (Hoegg et al., 2006). The dynamic creation and sharing of information is promoting interactive corporate practices and the development of Enterprise 2.0. Knowledge is considered as an important source of wealth creation and competitive advantage (Chesbrough, 2006, Tapscott and Williams, 2006). Novel ICT technologies are stimulating transformations within companies based on the ways how knowledge is captured, organized, stored, shared and evaluated among all members, i.e. management, employees, customers... Enterprise 2.0 operates more as a network of autonomous self-controlling teams, moderated by managers, rather than an organisation controlled by a central management unit. Accordingly, management processes and skills are different or expected to change, i.e. give up control, retain leadership (Li, 2010). At the same time, new leadership tasks need to be assumed.
At this point, the present study is analysing the extent to which social media practices of ‘Generation Y (digital natives)’ lead to new forms and practices of management and leadership compared to the ones of former generations. This is the core issue that drives the present study. It will contribute to the current debate about impacts of social media on management practices. It examines to what extent young leaders are handling and implementing web 2.0 philosophies efficiently and effectively within business companies and at management levels.
Drawing upon relevant literature regarding leadership tasks and skills, this research will analyse managerial functions, which are broadly recognised such as assessing, setting goals, developing employees, organizing or decision-making. The study is focussing on executives of different ages, with different leadership experience and working within different industrial domains of the German economy. The multi-method framework foresees different methods to gather data regarding the interrelation of social media use and individual leadership style.
Interviews will first be conducted with employees in leading positions and from various business areas. Later on, a questionnaire about leadership skills will be developed on the basis of existing tests, i.e. quality management style analysis (QFA) and Multifactor-Leadership-Questionnaire (MLQ). In order to specifically explore the impact of social media use on the management style or relevant aspects of leadership, a new methodological tool will be constructed, which leads to a kind of self-assessment of leadership among the executives.
In a third step, case studies will depict the leadership approaches of selected executives. These qualitative perspectives on the topic under scrutiny aim to create a better understanding of the real practices in play (e.g., use of social networks, professional experiences…). They inform us also about the meta-level of decision-making processes of managers, i.e. about the why, what, when and how of methodological decisions.
Besides the content level, the study will show the participant’s interpretation of managerial responsibilities. Key questions about the case studies allow a better comparison in the reflection section. In combination with the quantitative methods these allow to make statements about the real leadership style of the various generations. Together, the quantitative and qualitative lenses will generate ecologically valid parameters which allow to answer the central research question.
The research is conducted in cooperation with Buhr & Team, a German company operating in the corporate training and counselling domain.