Published on January 2nd, 2020 📆 | 2891 Views ⚑0
Leading people in the times of digital transformation
The work world continues its metamorphosis as organizations
increasingly leverage technology to modernize their business strategies. As the
pace of change intensifies, many companies just cannot compete as competition
rains in from every direction.
“Digital platforms now deliver immense value, enabling us to connect, collaborate and broaden our minds – raising awareness about important issues, bringing people together for a common purpose and achieving new breakthroughs.”
The digital revolution has launched a new era of human
empowerment and engagement across business, society and in every aspect of our
lives. Never before has there been a more powerful influence on human behavior,
irrespective of country or culture, than the combined effect of digital technologies. The effects of this shift on society are
tremendous and, in particular, are dramatically changing our leadership
responsibilities whether in politics, professionals in business, teachers in
school or parents raising children.
As our work world becomes increasingly digital, understanding
the role of digital technology in shaping culture and behavior and using it to
an advantage –is key to effective leadership in the future. More
and more companies are embracing advanced technologies to decrease the cost of
production and increase profitability.
While organizations are grappling with the market disruptions due
to digital transformation, leaders are expected to not only keeping pace with
the ever changing business environment, but also ensuring successful adoption
of digital solutions, achieving desired outcomes and also aligning all
employees to the established digital transformation imperatives.
“Digital transformation is challenging how the leaders interact, communicate, develop, and oversee the performances of their people. Leaders are expected to create an environment of teamwork, where people can constantly learn, adopt and adapt to the digital systems.“
However, in the digital era, physical presence of leaders has been
mostly substituted with virtual form of leadership. Thus, further adding to the
challenge of connecting emotionally and establishing the much desired
interpersonal connect with the team.
We all know the importance of physical interactions and how it
helps leaders to gauge responses and actions of colleagues and team members,
according to their emotional disposition, which is missing in a digital
communication setup and making it difficult for a leader to read or interpret
Should You Focus? – Not every competency has the same impact on
an organization’s digital performance. Following six competencies that have the
greatest impact on performance and of these six most critical skills, most leaders
are relatively strong in four areas, weaker in two:-
- Lead with digitization. Organizations
need leaders who understand the impact digital tech can have on their
businesses. They sense what is and isn’t possible and, more important, sense
what will be possible. They look to standardize and automate processes to
generate new insights they can leverage for differentiated capabilities. This
is a relatively weak area for leaders.
- Adaptability is a must. Digital
leaders must be able to adapt to constant change or fall behind. They need to
be learning every day, not getting caught up in “traditions.” This is a
relative leadership strength.
- Execution. It’s one
thing to anticipate change. But it takes another set of skills altogether to
turn new ideas into reality. This also is a strength.
- Hyper-collaboration is about
working relentlessly to break down silos. It’s getting people working together
to solve customers’ and the organization’s issues. Again, this is a relative
- Identify and develop new talent. Leaders
need to spot and rapidly bring on board the digitally savvy talent of tomorrow.
Leaders do relatively well in this area.
- A 360 view. Leaders
must be able to spot patterns and bring thinking together from multiple
perspectives. This is a real weakness.
Although, information technology in this era offers multiple
mediums of interacting and communicating seamlessly, there are certain softer
aspects which the leaders are required to adapt to and manage with utmost care.
For communications in virtual settings, the information could possibly lose its
social or contextual meaning compared to traditional face-to face conversations
that allows for direct responses. Additionally, e-leaders find it difficult to
communicate to their global teams due to different time zones.
Digital transformation has enabled globalization, helping companies
spread their businesses across the globe. However, leaders have a challenge
developing a single communication strategy or approach when working with such
dispersed staff and high cultural sensitivity.
- Changing different cultural etiquette is a huge
challenge. It is noteworthy that what might be standard and acceptable in one
country might not be appreciated in another. So a leader with dispersed
workforce must be mindful of local norms and cultures to avoid conflicts.
- Managing accountability is another significant
challenge posed in managing virtual teams working remotely and away from
company premises. This dispersed workforce works with a high level of autonomy
and requires a high level of personal accountability & commitment to
- Hiring new resources only adds to the worries of
these leaders. With fewer direct interactions in digital communication, leaders
find it difficult to maintain interpersonal relations with their followers.
- Start by identifying critical leadership
roles and assess readiness of your talent to embrace and pioneer
- Rethink your competency framework to
include emergent knowledge and skills to focus leader development. Many
companies going through unprecedented change have not reexamined their
- Develop digital accelerator
leadership-immersion programs. This is an excellent approach to building both
technical know-how and leadership capability.
- Move beyond simply
“doing digital” via discrete technology implementations to “being digital,” an
embedded leadership mindset and way of working.
- Become a student of all things digital. Whether
it is connecting with employees using the latest social media tool, engaging
with your children, revamping outdated policies, or simply reading emerging
research, leaders must be the first adopters of digital trends and get
comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Forget hierarchy. The
digital world is one of empowered, individualized experiences, and leaders must
embrace that it has no boundaries or titles. By nature, digital technology is
diverse and inclusive and, when nurtured, can give leaders endless
opportunities to harness innovation, solve problems, share knowledge and learn
- Think beyond reality. Human
workers are being replaced by a digital workforce with the unstoppable
development of artificial intelligence. We’re not only talking about physical
robots and self-driving cars; we’re talking about software agents that carry
out repeatable routine activities with increasing cognitive ability as they
“learn” by doing.
- Hang on to your values. As we’ve
seen, the spectrum of emotions, experiences and behaviors driven by digital are
vast, and no one is immune to its influence. Our personal values can be easily
corrupted if we are not careful in protecting them, so in the wake of all that
noise, leaders – and everyone – must remember what and who is truly important,
set boundaries and act accordingly.
With all the variances between generations, leaders have to evolve their styles to motivate a very diverse workforce.
Here are Top 8 Skills of Today’s Digital Leaders:-
- Digital Literacy – As
defined by Cornell University, digital literacy is the ability to find,
evaluate, utilize, share and create content using information technologies and
the internet. Literacy is not only technical, it requires cognitive, critical,
creative and social skills. It is safe to say that you are never done learning
when it comes to digital technology.
- Digital Vision – When
building a digital strategy, sell the idea of the long-term benefits the new
technologies will bring.
- Advocacy – As a
leader you set the tone for the rest of the organization. Advocacy is all about
energizing people about the digital vision. An Investing time in your own
literacy encourages others to pursue similar knowledge.
- Presence – Presence
is a form of advocacy that translates to “walking the walk.” Leaders
can have a clear digital vision and strongly advocate for it, but if they
aren’t visibly practicing it where the workforce can see, no one will buy what
- Communication – Your
communication style backs up your presence. Consider your messaging practices
and how they may or may not portray your digital vision.
- Adaptability – Developing
openness to explore new technologies and taking a flexible approach to how you
conceive the digital workplace will strengthen your adaptability muscle.
- Self-Awareness – In this
era, leadership requires a high degree of self-awareness.” The level of connectivity today is
unprecedented — for leaders and for the broader workforce. The boundaries
between inside and outside the office are now blurred. Leaders should reflect
on their approach and how it may affect others. This should become a natural
and ongoing practice.
- Cultural Awareness – Cultural
awareness is the lens through which you view your digital vision. It
encompasses the values needed for success. During times of communication and
participation leaders should remember sensitivity in the digital workplace, as
well as retain an awareness of cultural differences.
- Lead for the future of the organization. Nurture
and develop leaders as much as those running the legacy business. New leaders
will not only require a technical mindset, but also the imagination and vision
of how technology can enable their organization’s competitive position.
- Foster a digital ecosystem for
leaders to thrive. This includes new approaches to learning, rewards, use of
space, and elimination of hierarchies. Place great digitally ready leaders in a
traditional culture, and they will surely fail.
In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge the need for
leadership training, and accordingly tailor the trainings aligned to current
digital technologies, will benefit the organizations in their digital
transformation journey. Looking to the near future, every organization
will need to embrace new technologies if they are to flourish. And, those with
the most capable digital-ready leaders will continue to stay ahead of the