The world of work is increasingly leveraging innovative technologies—from AI and mobile, to augmented reality and chatbots—to advance business and help companies gain a competitive advantage. As with any major shift, the new age of digital and data requires different leadership skills, knowledge, and competencies to ensure a positive impact on organizational performance. It’s yet another case of “what got you here won’t get you there”—the continuously evolving digital environment calls for leaders and management to move beyond traditional leadership competencies and overcome outdated mindsets.
Companies with leaders who have specifically prepared to use data to strategically guide their decisions are poised to achieve greater innovation and accelerate corporate growth. Yet SHAMBAUGH’s research suggests that only a small percentage of today’s leaders are appropriately equipped with the critical new knowledge, skills, and abilities that today’s leaders need to succeed in this data-driven environment. To help you determine where you should focus your attention going forward, consider the following six critical leadership attributes for the digital era:
- Be purposeful. When it comes to leading in the current climate, it’s important that executives are intentional around their approach to data, rather than just creating and chasing data without understanding the business “why” behind it. Since people are naturally resistant to change, leaders need to be able to clearly articulate the organization’s vision on how technology can drive competitive advantage for the company, rather than simply adding more technology for the sake of having the latest app.
- Remain customer-centric. As part of determining purpose, even in this new environment, one thing doesn’t change: digital leaders must continue to focus on the customer’s needs. This calls for creating opportunities to communicate regularly with customers and being open to ever-more creative ways to address their evolving issues, concerns, and priorities. Today’s apps and digital tools make it easier than ever to quickly gain data and insight into your customer base, and digital leaders should maximize these technologies to improve their products and services to match what people currently want, and how they want to receive it.
- Link digital initiatives to the business case. Leaders must articulate the business case behind why they are introducing specific technology, whether that’s to create a more productive workplace, accelerate complex problem-solving, or improve decision-making while driving towards greater innovation. Leaders can gain buy-in from their teams by showing how technology can solve critical problems that the company is facing, or how it can help teams create the next big idea that will accelerate divisional or organizational goals and objectives.
- Be a hypo-collaborator. The digital era requires thinking divergently versus siloed thinking. In an environment of constant change and ambiguity, it’s vital to be adaptive to new stakeholders and resilient in navigating shifts in power and influence,which includes being able to collaborate across diverse teams while valuing new partners’ views and contributions. The key for today’s leaders is to have a holistic view and work relentlessly to breakdown “us vs. them” thinking, to get people to collaborate across the enterprise to solve customer issues, create innovative solutions, and continuously find ways to improve competitive advantage. The only way to do this effectively is to have a 360-degree view that seeks out multiple perspectives and creates real-time best-practices sharing to learn from one another.
- Have empathy and in-person connectivity. One of the challenges for leaders in the digital era is keeping a human touch front and center. It’s easy to hide behind technology and let it serve as your proxy for communication, yet without continuing to lead, inspire, and connect with people at a human level by balancing technology and people, leaders won’t keep teams engaged. This is why emotional intelligence (EI) is a more important leadership attribute than ever, as is listening and just being present. When you’re intentional and lead with true empathy and inclusivity, prioritizing the human implications of data and the impact data has on people, then you can help individuals and teams embrace the change that they have to go through to evolve into this new era, rather than resist it.
- Be a continuous learner. The best digital leaders are those who never stop imagining. These leaders are constantly curious and vigilant, looking at issues in new ways for better problem solving. They know that what worked in the past may not be the best future solution. Data intelligence can help leaders expand beyond their common assumptions and biases. But remember that digital intelligence starts with human intelligence. As digital leaders, our collective goal should be to ensure that there is an unbiased lens when creating the platform for gathering and synthesizing data. It all ties back to inclusive leadership, and ensuring our technologies—as well as our individual work and efforts—support the goal of ensuring that everyone’s voice has an equal chance to be heard around the table.
How is your organization leading in the digital era? I’d love to hear your experiences, and also share more thoughts with you on how leaders can thrive by developing a broader set of skills that reflect the changes in today’s tech-driven workplace. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shambaugh is a leadership expert on building
inclusive and high performance cultures. She speaks at major conferences and to
executives on how to disrupt traditional mindsets and create an inspiring
vision and roadmap for driving greater levels of innovation and performance
through a unified voice for leadership. Rebecca is
the Founder of Women in Leadership and
Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for
the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a
Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor and Make
Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve
SHAMBAUGH’s Mission: We’re on a mission to develop high-performing and inclusive leaders who transform workplace cultures so everyone can thrive.
Find out more about us at: www.shambaughleadership.com