Leadership Skills for Digital Age

2017 Gartner CIO Agenda Survey shows that CIOs are currently spending 18% budgets for digitization, and this will rise to 28% by 2018. CIOs across the board also identify Digital skills gap as the primary barrier to achieving digitization. As per IMD, 87% of the analysts & executives globally anticipate their industries to be disrupted by the digital trends; however only 44% believe that their organization is ready for the same.

One crucial aspect of organization’s preparedness is grooming of their leaders to support the Digital disruption. While traditional Leadership skills continue to be relevant, these are evolving rapidly and adapting to the rapidly transforming Business environment. 

As per Gartner’s CEO survey, most companies acknowledge that digital change is a macro factor impacting strategy and most have decided to improve their capability acknowledging the fact that Digitization requires a new kind of leadership 

40% of Business leaders agree that digital leadership is one of their top challenges, 80% said they would personally need learning to be successful in the digital age – Gartner 

While technology understanding remains the key trait of a Digital leader, following are the other traits which are consistent across most mature and established Digital leaders –

1. Cultivate Agile culture. Digital leaders cultivate deep risk taking and agile culture within their teams to be able to respond at lightning speed to their customer needs. 80% respondents from matured digital companies said that they actively encourage agility & risk taking, compared to just 23% from the early-stage companies.

2. Always up-to-date on the latest. These leaders continuously scan their internal and external environments and keep them up-to-date on what is happening around them not only with their competitors but more importantly with their clients and Businesses with which they deal. They are all ears to diverse voices and engage with various stakeholders and Industry experts to solicit inputs as well.

3. Use data to drive decision making. Rather than going by their instincts, new age leaders gather data across various sources, analyze the same effectively to take informed decisions. They constantly look out for internal as well as public data to support their decision making. Surveys point out that data driven decisions were 50% more accurate while reducing the decision-making time by 90%

4. Forward looking & Visionary. Leaders with vision are critical to driving digital changes. New age leaders always plan ahead of their times. While keeping an eye on what is happening right now, they have a clear vision of the future, and to set the course to be prepared for the same well ahead of the competition. These leaders clearly define the long term objectives which help them to disrupt rather than getting disrupted. They always aspire to think beyond today to provide their clients with something more. 50% of respondents from matured digital companies said that they create strategy looking out over more than two years, as compared to 34% from early-stage companies.

5. Are change agents. Ability to change is critical in the complex and rapidly changing environment. Digital age leaders must inspire change within their organization. Rapid technology changes, global reach, shrinking divides between geographies and industries and quick cropping up of new disruptors drive quick changes which the leaders must be adept to deal with their change oriented mindset.

6. Engage with stakeholders. These leaders always engage, with all the stakeholders including their team members, customers, suppliers, partners, staff and also the society and industry within which they operate. They clearly communicate their vision and also discover, explore and learn from others. They also empower their teams with opportunities and necessary resources to develop their Digital skills. 76% of employees at matured digital companies agree that they are empowered with opportunities & resources to further their digital skills, against 14% of early-stage organizations.

7. Are willing to Unlearn and Learn. In today’s rapidly changing world, leaders must be humble and be able to recognize what they don’t know. Also there are always better ways to solve a particular problem, so leaders must be patient and flexible enough to listen to a different viewpoint and if necessary, willing to unlearn their way and learn the better way. Leaders must be able to push the team to think “Out of the Box”, and seek input from all internal & external stakeholders.

8. Acts fast. In a significantly disruptive environment, the leaders must act quickly to gain competitive advantage. They must do away with the “First Time Right” approach to give way for “Fail fast” approach. To be highly effective, they must quickly execute the vision. Fast execution hence is one of the critical behaviors of new age leader at all levels. They must kill bureaucracy and work through the organizational, cultural and fiscal barriers.

The ultimate aim of any organization in their Digital transformation journey is to achieve “Digital Congruence” which is the alignment of leaders, people, culture, structure, tasks and company strategy to effectively drive Digital transformation & address the challenges of a constantly changing digital landscape. 

As per Gartner’s CEO survey, most companies acknowledge that Digitization requires a new kind of leadership

Although digital transformation leaders are just one facet of a “Digital Congruence”, they are obviously the most critical one as they drive all other facets of the same. Companies must pro-actively invest in developing Digital leaders which is a key to successful Digital transformation.




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