Leadership in the Digital Age
Digital technology today are the engines of innovation and revenue growth, offering organizations unprecedented opportunities to develop new products and services, and even reimagine their entire business process.
Customers demand more value and innovation than ever before. Organizations must focus on placing customers at the center of their thinking and development around processes, products, and decisions. In an era of social media customers can amplify opinions about their experiences, including holding organizations accountable for their environment practices.
Employees, today, resist top-down communication and commands; they expect their voices heard in developing their organization. With so much more information available to more people, leaders’ legitimacy must now come from various sources, or they must share decision-making with employees or both. Leaders need to view employees more as “collaborators” than “followers.,” and place greater focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion to gain further perspectives and experiences within the organization. It can only mean that organizations who engage the hearts and minds of their employees, will quickly outperform others.
Leadership for the road ahead must involve continuous development of skills to compete in a fast-evolving digital world. Leadership cannot be static considering the speed at which modern technology continues to emerge, this is not a one-and-done process.
Whilst there are various skills leaders require in this digital age for the road ahead, I will highlight areas where leaders need to lean in to:
Pivot All the Way
Rely less on strategic thinking and more on open mindedness and a more experimental approach. It is important for leaders to think and act with an outside-in perspective, cultivating a 360-degree view withing their organization as well as of those of the ecosystem in which they operate. Leaders need to be a Catalyst not a Planner.
It has never been more important for leaders to trust and let go. It is about inviting employees to share in decision-making and creating a culture that allows them to feel safe to take risks and act on behalf of organizational interest. Leaders need to collaborate with an increasingly diverse workforce across functions, levels, geographies, and even organizational boundaries.
Leaders must be explorers, and explorers are really, “curiosity in action., “as defined by most people. The need to balance curiosity with intentionality is significant as it allows a leader to assess when to be open-minded and when to dig deeper. In the vein of exploring, leaders must go beyond their organizations and their usual experiences and relationships to understand how the future might unfold in this era of digital maturity. Leaders must be humble and ask the right questions and regularly attend roundtable collaborations.
The best leaders stay present and emotionally engaged, communicating openly and authentically. They are empathetic and they actively listen and show compassion. There are some situations where demonstrating empathy can be challenging as the pace of business increases. However, great leaders will execute decisions in an understanding and well thought out manner.
In conclusion, leaders in the digital age need to move away from the “old ways” of doing business and gravitate towards creativity, which requires effort. Leaders will need to see beyond silos and organizational levels to align individuals with varied skill sets to frame and solve problems. Leaders will face the pivotal role as an expert facilitator of their teams, and “stay” the course to the desired outcome. Creativity has no boundaries and a creative leader who thinks freely, or outside the box will create possibilities that fit right in with the massive technological shift for the road ahead.