Digital Leadership? Or Leadership in a Digital World?

How has the concept of leadership changed in our increasingly digital landscape


Digital Leadership is a phrase fast becoming a buzzword for more and more businesses and business leaders.

However, the word digital has built an impression or understanding that it’s all about technology. If you think that you are on a slippery road. It is as a result of the digital revolution that we need to revisit and rethink leadership, business models and ‘the way we do things’.

But, Digital Leadership is less about a single person and more about bringing together a coalition of power, skill and vision that can collectively start the first wave of transformation.

Why do you need Digital Leadership? Well we all need to become more digital – not just do digital but be digital and that means technology change, people change and business change…so one person alone doesn’t work.

What does this coalition look like and what do they need to do?

Well as with most transformational change efforts – nothing works without a fully embraced mandate from up on high. So you need to ensure that the highest level of the business fully supports the effort. Don’t stumble at this first hurdle, believe me, the effort to secure this support will be the biggest success factor in your business becoming more adaptive, more digital.

Then you need three key skill-sets and people of influence in this coalition: Someone who knows technology, someone who knows communication, and someone who knows about people and culture. Why is this important? Well digital might not be all about tech but it’s going play a huge part in your transformation efforts – moving to automation, creating collaborative environments, aggregating data to make it meaningful, just having someone who knows what new and emerging tech is out there is hugely important. This is a person who can show the business the art of the possible to achieve business objectives and meet audience needs.

Communication is another key area that often get’s ignored when it comes to transformational efforts but it’s vital that there is a communication plan. Don’t just send an email or have a meeting and think it’s done, and you can’t leave people to their own devices – you need to nurture them, keep reminding them of the urgency of becoming more digital. There are two key areas that need to be managed; the participation of key people to build credibility and a reason to follow, alongside the creation of conversation throughout the organisation; a focus on sharing and receiving. And then of course there is the need to address culture – because the way you do things at every level of the business is going to change and only the right mindset will allow for this to happen.

Then you need believers, inspirers, people willing to have a go, test things, try things, learn new things…these are the people that already have the mindset of change. These people are those who will generate your initial quick wins and good news stories. These people will create momentum to help move the transformational process along. Don’t forget them, go out and find them as one of your first key steps – this is your first group of advocates.

Lastly, one of the big outputs of digital transformation is the democratisation of business. So at this very first and key stage, bring some new and fresh digital native blood into the mix, there is much for us to learn from the digitals, as there is much for the digitals to learn from experience.

What I’ve just described is a really key step in your journey to becoming a more digital business. You need power at the table, you need capability at the table, you need advocates at the table and some of your newest DNA to help you understand what tomorrow will really look like.

Obviously, I’m only talking about one small item that is needed at the beginning of your journey towards becoming adaptive. You need to understand where your business sits digitally today so you know where to start and where to focus.

You need a vision, and rather than a digital strategy sitting alongside your business strategy, create guiding principles that fit with your strategy that can be embedded within the business to help everyone start to become more digital. You are also going to need some good news stories, most businesses we find have at least a couple of good news stories that can help people see that in some way, shape or form you are already demonstrating success in digital.

We know the world is changing, we know as consumers we are changing, we know our daily lives are changing.

Digital does have a lot to answer for. But in a good way. We now know that things are in a state of constant change and that those who can see change, assess change and act accordingly i.e. adapt to change will be the successful businesses of the future.

Bringing your business up to speed with digital in 2015 really needs to be your number 1 agenda for the New Year. Create a sense of urgency and start your journey.

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