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Leadership in the 4.0 Era


It’s no longer a secret; the fourth industrial revolution has begun. This is an increasingly popular topic and everyone has their own idea what it really means.

This article focuses on the role leaders and managers play in our organizations; a role that will take on a relational approach. What a great paradox at a time when virtual and artificial intelligence are so important.


The 4.0 Era

This revolution is founded on smart factory technology, characterized by an interconnection of machines and systems not only at production sites, but also between themselves and in the real world (between clients, partners and other production sites).

For several years now, technology has been evolving at a fairly slow pace in our organizations. The arrival of a single new machine was quite the event. Today, we are easily overwhelmed because everything changes so quickly. A new version arrives when we haven’t even had a chance to become familiar with the last one.

While struggling to contend with this technological transition, organizations face numerous and omnipresent challenges, be it labour shortages, employee retention, hiring and or the overlapping of four generations.

The transition to the 4.0 era is particularly turbulent and requires a great deal of receptiveness, flexibility and, more than ever, humanity.




Transforming Leadership

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Entering a new era entails significant transformations. What is the impact on leaders, their role and the way they exercise leadership?

The evolution of leadership over the past 45 years

ERA Type of Environment Type of Leadership Chosen Approach


A relatively poorly educated,
low-skilled work force

Corporate leadership: “I know what needs doing, do as I say!”

- I communicate the bare minimum
- I manage things


Specialized, more educated

More sophisticated work

Corporate leadership to align
all heads in the same direction

- Focused on system development and management
- I manage employees and group


Scarcity of skilled workers

Niche production


Engagement-based leadership:
the head is essential, but is no longer sufficient; we must now engage the
heart as well

Proximity, relationships

- My role is to foster engagement
- I manage individuals

Source: André Savard, CRHA – 2011 


Today’s leaders are required to have more interpersonal skills than ever before, including the ability to:

  • Foster engagement
  • Anticipate and initiate change
  • Build networks and partnerships
  • Work as part of a team
  • Enhance employees’ accountability
  • Find ways to motivate employees


How can we initiate this transformation?

By creating value.

A leader’s mission is to ensure the contribution of each and every employee.

I know what you’re thinking, “Yes, but it’s hard to motivate the new generation and older generations seem to be fed up, we can’t ask anything of them.” Bear in mind that, whatever the generation, we are all human and we all have the same motivational needs. Once these needs have been met, they stimulate engagement. Ways of seeing things change, that’s undeniable, but needs and ambitions remain the same. We want our actions to have meaning, we want to be able to grow, to contribute and to be recognized… In other words, to make a difference!

green sprout growing

As human beings, we don’t want to lose momentum. We need to move, to grow.

Like the changing of the seasons, this is the characteristic of life. It would be unrealistic to believe we can prevent new growth in spring. The same holds for our employees. It would be inconceivable to think about hampering their development and using them as pawns in a chess game, like puppets.


Leaders Create Value

Let’s create value by allowing everyone to feel useful, or better yet, to be useful! We must keep this point in mind because, no matter the generation, our biggest need is to BE useful.

Let’s put our hearts into it! Why? Because this is where we find our inner qualities such as caring, humility and the ability to listen and provide support—qualities we need to recognize our own value as well as that of others. Once leveraged, the possibilities are endless.

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