„We offer real value”

Frankfurt, 26.02.2019 (PresseBox) – Management researcher Dr. Benjamin Bader of Newcastle University Business School has developed a 12-week leadership-course for the smartphone app Leada. Here, he explains why an app might be more effective than a multi-day seminar – and reveals the connection between leadership and skydiving. 
The „Leadership Advancement Program“ (LeAP) introduces three different leadership styles. This begs the question why one should study leadership in the first place – isn’t leadership a skill that you learn on the job?  
BENJAMIN BADER: It’s a mixed bag – there are things that you can and should study and there are things that you need to experience. In this regard, leadership is like skydiving: You can read as much as you want, you can watch as many videos as you want …
… in the end, I have to take the leap forward.
BADER: Exactly. This experience cannot be replaced through any kind of theory. However, there is a lot that you can learn before: basic techniques, physical laws, the correct usage of equipment and so on. And that definitely makes sense – unless you want the jump to be unnecessarily risky and dangerous.
And this is true for leadership as well?
BADER: Yes. It is very important that you understand the basics of leadership before you find yourself in a leadership position. In addition, leaders should always strive to study further. In one respect, though, the comparison with skydiving does not hold up.
What respect would that be?
BADER: Leadership is much more complex than skydiving. You have to take into account many more factors. Further, you have to constantly question and reflect your actions. As a skydiver, after a while you will develop routines, and in most situations, those will be helpful. There are routines in leadership as well, but you have to make an effort to always reflect on them. Also, leaders find themselves in a variety of situations that widely differ. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to be very reflective and you have to be willing to try out new things – that makes it complex.
You have developed a leadership program for the smartphone app Leada. Why not write a book instead?
BADER: I find it fascinating how Leada activates and engages its users. For me, the option to track my personal health and performance levels over a long time is particularly insightful. At the same time, I think it’s smart that Leada does not create any kind of obligation: The app makes various offers; whether I accept them or not is entirely up to me. I am a big fan of this kind of self-empowerment. And I am not the only one who thinks that way – just look at the awards that Leada has won, for example the Deutscher Exzellenpreis it received in January. I am very glad that I can now contribute to this success story.
How did you approach developing LeAP?
BADER: First, I want to point out that I did not do this all by myself. A whole team has been working on the Leadership Advancement Program. Michael Gielnik from Leuphana University and I started by presorting topics and sketching a structure, which we then discussed with Leada CEO Frank Kuebler. During this process, it became clear that LeAP would deal with today’s most influential leadership style, transformational leadership. In addition, we figured that servant and ambidextrous leadership are very useful to be included as well. We then moved on to write the core texts in a course with HR students. This was a huge effort, we wouldn’t have been able to do it in the time given without the excellent team work. Thereafter, we put the program through several loops, refined and thereby perfecting it, until we were satisfied with the final result.
Who is LeAP for?
BADER: LeAP is for all leaders who want to reflect on their behavior, try out new things, and develop their potential.
This would make LeAP particularly interesting for younger leaders, right?
BADER: Sure – but I am convinced that LeAP provides real value for experienced leaders as well. For instance, plenty of managers out there have heard of “transformational leadership“ in workshops or seminars – but how many of them do actually implement this style in their workday? That, in my eyes, is LeAP’s core benefit: It puts the theory in practice. I am sure that this is interesting for experienced leaders as well.  
How exactly does LeAP work?
BADER: To put it short, LeAP encourages its user to observe, question, and change their leadership behavior. There is no “right“ or “wrong“, though. LeAP makes various suggestions – it’s up to the user to decide what makes sense for them to adapt.
Would you explain this with the aid of a concrete example?
BADER: Of course. Praising is one of the most straightforward examples. Everybody knows how motivating it is to feel being valued by others. Yet, several leadership studies point out that most leaders praise very little. That is a big problem, especially since fixing it costs nothing and can make a huge difference. With that in mind, we developed a Leada impulse: We encourage users to praise their employees when they have done something right and then to observe what effects that praise has on them.
It’s often the small things that make a difference.
BADER: Definitely. One goal of LeAP is to create sensitivity for these alleged small things.
Do you make use of Leada’s standard functions as well?
BADER: Yes. Personally, I was hooked very early on by Leada’s “History”-function which lets you oversee your health and performance levels over a long time. To me, this was very insightful. I also recommend the “Tips” – there’s a huge set of useful data behind those.
LeAP sends its users two short impulses per day. Is that enough to explain strategies as complex as ambidextrous leadership?
BADER: Keep in mind that LeAP is a toolbox, not a scientific library. The goal is that user get concrete advice for workday situations, not to gather textbook knowledge on the strategies. Further, I would like to stress that LeAP provides a mere entry point. Throughout the program, we regularly refer to additional content. By the way: If companies are interested in individually continuing the course, we will be very happy to help them. There is a lot you can do with Leada.
You link the program with a study. What are you researching?
BADER: Broadly speaking, we evaluate whether the program works and how to improve leadership using an instrument like Leada. Of course, this is completely anonymous, we have no access to personal data and analyze on an aggregate level only. Further, I want to point out that as researchers we are entirely independent here and not financially involved.
What are your hopes for LeAP?
BADER: First and foremost, we hope that users will accept the course and stay with it throughout. We have put a lot of work into developing LeAP and we would love to see people benefitting from it. For us, the biggest success would be if users told us: This program has really helped me grow as a leader. 
Dr. Benjamin Bader is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at Newcastle University Business School.

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