Leadership in the Digital Era — The What and Why
One might wonder what makes a quintessential leader different from a digital leader. Well, to be honest, the fundamentals remain the same; instead, the aesthetic appearance changes to reflect the modern approach to work from a digital perspective.
What really defines a digital leader is the integration of tech to achieve the overall business goals and objectives. Digital leaders ensure optimum inclusion of the latest technology into the day-to-day operations of a business entity to best cater to the consumers and curb competition and sometimes redefine approaches.
What characterizes a digital leader?
A digital Leader has to pay heed to the nitty gritty’s of a function, team and the organization as a whole. Although the array of responsibilities is large, there are five distinguished characteristics that a digital leader is touted to have:
- Stephen Hawking was truly an inspirational leader who connected people over his belief system. Digital leaders are in fact technologists who inspire others in believing and achieving over and above what they imagine.
- When it comes to leveraging technology to innovate for the greater good, seldom does one miss out on Steve Jobs. He is an icon in not only implementing but also in introducing cutting-edge technology among the masses. Leaders today have to essentially have a think out-of-the-box strain, to stay ahead in the game.
- Differing from a monopoly standpoint, tech leaders are now encouraging collaboration to cater bigger share of the markets. They are also believing in the fact that with collaborative efforts industries can achieve over and above what companies/ teams can imagine.
- An essential in-built characteristic is to be able to effectively manage the risk associated with the technology in question. In order to implement technology effectively, the leader must thoroughly understand it. Tech in today’s time is getting obsolete faster than ever and this poses a threat to the timelines of a particular product or service.
Digital leaders in today’s time and era are viewed as agile leaders than non-agile leaders. This agility gives them higher responsibility and a sense of inclusion in the system. Four characteristics distinguish an agile leader from a non-agile leader:
- Humility: Acknowledging that others know more than they do and accepting feedback from others.
- Adaptability: Their ability to change their minds based on new information is a strength rather than a weakness.
- Visionary: Even when short-term uncertainty looms, they have a clear sense of long-term direction.
- Engaged: Actively listening, interacting, and communicating with internal and external stakeholders and possessing a sense of curiosity and interest in emerging trends.
Agile Leaders additionally indicate key behaviours that help them to navigate disruptive environments successfully:
- Hyperawareness: They constantly look out for opportunities and threats within and outside their organization.
- Making Informed Decisions: Based on the evidence, they decide what course of action to take.
- Speedy Execution: Often valuing speed over perfection, they are able to move rapidly
An effective digital technology leader follows certain principles:
- Value-driven leadership
- Coaching of both humans and bots
- Focus on innovation
- Knowledge about security and integrity
- Understanding the power of diversity and inclusion
- Learnability and accountability
- How to be sustainable as humans and as leaders
If one were to draw a comparison between a leader from the industrial era with that of a leader from the digital era it would leave us thinking of how much has changed on the face of it yet not so much at the fundamental value.
The 18th century marked the onset of the industrial age but the era in its true sense only began in the early 20th century when industrial technology was combined with management.
In this leadership style, there was a steep hierarchy of authority. The top management was in charge and the power trickled downwards. There was a bureaucratic structure to the work, staff filled roles and followed rules. Internally, the mindset was results-oriented and efficiency-oriented. There was a bureaucratic structure to the work, staff filled roles and followed rules. Internally, the mindset was results-oriented and efficiency-oriented.
What leaders do in the digital era is almost the opposite of management in the industrial era. In order to replace the steep vertical hierarchy of authority, a horizontal network of competence is needed — a network of self-organizing teams that can change direction as needed. An external focus on value for customers is needed, rather than an internal focus on outputs and efficiency. It is imperative that digital leadership engages not only the brain but also the heart, through inspiration and collaboration, in order to realize the full potential of those who do the work. This year has been as exciting as ever, post-covid things have drastically changed; here are the trends that are driving the C-level hiring of tech leaders in 2022.
If one were to ask what an ideal leader in the digital era looks like, there are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- One who builds participation and accountability
- Provides direction, clarity and purpose
- Empowers people to experiment, innovate and execute
- Builds bridges and finds solutions
- Is agile
- Believer in constant evolution and reskilling
Our everyday habits and our overall lifestyles are being impacted by technology. Leaders and leadership styles have also gradually evolved. With tech inclusion betterment of society has become a necessity and the leaders of today are inclined to act the part. With the changing times, it will be fascinating to document what other roles leaders will assume in the near future.