What is Digital Leadership and Why Now is the Time For Being A Digital Leader

What is Digital Leadership and Why Now is the Time For Being A Digital Leader

Ever since the release of the first web browser, the internet has greatly changed people’s livelihood on personal and professional levels. As much as change may not always be obvious, it certainly is inevitable. The question really is What is Digital Leadership? The digital era, therefore, has changed and evolved into present-day practices where customers are assuming the availability of digital payments, e-commerce, and recently the ability to working online. Whether you are a senior leader or someone on a leadership development programme, the opportunity s there for all to embrace digital.

In the wake of Covid-19, companies have quickly adopted digital technologies to ensure continuity in their operations. Companies, therefore, had to change how they operate amid the lock-downs, and with their employees working remotely. This has also seen clients move to seek services through online platforms.

The transition has been relatively easy to the tech and sales divisions, but a challenge for others. This has, therefore mounted pressure on the IT and HR departments to put in place technological capabilities, policies, and processes that are in line with the new adaptations. 

So What is Digital Leadership and how do we prepare? The leaders’ digital readiness has also been put into question. They, therefore, need to bridge their capability gaps by gaining more digital skills for them to be ready for the changing trends.

The headwinds to rapid transformation

To grasp the course of rapid transformation, there is a need to know the obstacles.

The first obstacle is to think that anything “digital” is possessed by others, especially those assigned to carry out “digital transformation.” The adoption of technology in a company is largely determined by the leaders. They can either amplify or block digital adoption. The table below illustrates how a functional leader role plays in shaping digital adoption in their company.

The Roles of Various Leaderhip Positions in Rapid Digital Adoption

Chief Financial OfficerTo organize the financial processes using AI-based tools
Chief Information OfficerTo ensure up-to-date IT systems and processes to improve the working of the company
Chief Human Resource OfficerTo foreplan the company’s future workforce
Chief Learning OfficerTo ensure a strong pool of leaders for the future through the development of digital skills.
Chief Marketing OfficerTo align the company with the customers’ changing needs and priorities.
Chief Operating OfficerTo ensure the flexibility of the company to accommodate new systems to support the changing trends.
Chief Legal CounselTo align the company’s policies with the new rules and regulations about the emerging digital trends
Chief Data OfficerTo strategize a competitive advantage through data organization.

The other obstacle is to wait for things to settle to act.  The companies that fail to implement digital transformations to create room for evolvement have a price to pay.

Another obstacle is to think that digital is solely for efficiency. The right culture and mindset on the use of digital tools should be set in the companies to encourage innovation and generation of ideas by the employees to spearhead the company to greater opportunities.

Critical skills of digital leaders

Leaders must power in their skills to stay afloat in these changing times. They must play a unique three-part role of digital strategist, innovator, and driver.

  • Digital strategist- strategizes on the use of technology to align the company’s operations.
  • Digital innovator- impedes on the status quo to help the company attain its vision.
  • Digital driver- builds talent and ensures rapid executions across the company.

The table below shows the summary of the future competency model, Digital Dexterity.

Digital StrategistStrategic ForesightTranslates market trends into new business opportunities
Customer FocusDevelops customer-centred solutions
Visionary LeadershipDevelops a vision to disrupt the status quo
Digital InnovatorInnovation EnablementDrives innovation through creative efforts and experimentation
Talent Ecosystem DevelopmentEnsures a flexible network of talent and resources
Data LiteracyShapes decision-making in relation to the company’s data
Digital DriverStrategic CollaborationCollaborates inputs from the stakeholders
Change ofLeadershipCompels change through influence and communication
Rapid ExecutionCreates priorities and decisions to drive rapid action
Agile LeaderAdaptabilityAdjusts faster to  change
Learning OrientationMaintain up-to-date skills for self and team
Growth MindsetRecovers quickly from setbacks taking failures to be lessons

Becoming a Digital Leader 

Plan for short and long-term shifts using scenarios – convert the present challenges into opportunities.

Monitor and detect change using data – identify early signs of change.

Experiment with new technology – capitalize on experimenting with emerging technologies.

Establish a personal digital game – create a cycle to upgrade your digital skills.

Creativity in virtual customer service – innovate ways to stay connected and serve customers.

Employee empowerment – prioritize innovation among the employees.

Streamline mindset and culture – help the employees view themselves in a digital version of the company.

This is a chance for the leaders to reinvent themselves through digital awareness and realize opportunities despite the abyss. This will help realize a flexible mind-set to work under any condition.

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