Joe McKendrick, author, independent researcher and speaker, wrote an article in Forbes about the best qualities for digital leadership. It requires a little something borrowed and a little something new.
Not only do those practicing digital leadership need to be able to embrace cutting-edge technology, but they also need to maintain some of the same tried-and-true management principles that have been around for the last 25, 50, or 100 years. Skills like communication are still just as important as understanding AI, Internet of Things, and Blockchain. McKendrick explained that “digital leaders must blend legacy skills with those of the digital era.”
Study Results from Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review
Gerald Kane of Boston College and Anh Nguyen Phillips of Deloitte have been overseeing an ongoing five-year study based on surveys of more than 20,000 business executives, managers and analysts. The study is conducted by Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review.
According to 22 percent of respondents, the most important skill to have these days is a transformative vision. This includes “the ability to anticipate markets and trends, make savvy business decisions, and solve tough problems in turbulent times.” The second most important leadership skill, chosen by 20 percent of respondents, is being forward-looking. This entails “having a clear vision, sound strategy, and foresight.”
These qualities have been required of business leaders for decades—before all of the emerging technologies we are facing became a big concern. While understanding these technologies is undeniably important, they should not become a digital leader’s sole focus. They play a part in the new market and creating a savvier business, but people are just as important as technology.
However, there are new digital leadership skills that must develop in addition to these tried-and-true skills. Leaders need to be able to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of business. There is also a need for greater creativity, a passion for learning, and more of a risk-taking mindset.
Advice for Building Digital Leadership Skills
The Forbes article cited four pieces of advice for digital leaders who are trying to develop their skillset.
- Bring on “anchor hires” as digital catalysts. You might want to consider hiring outside leaders with deep digital transformation experience who can provide the needed expertise and perspective. Not only will they have digital product experience, but they can stimulate a new way of thinking and doing in general. Make sure to check out 8 Ways to Attract & Retain Digital Transformation Talent to learn more on how to do this.
- Regularly refresh your team’s digital literacy. Ongoing education sessions with the organization’s leadership can help push your organization to the next level.
- Urge new leaders to step up. One skill that everyone should develop is the ability to lead networks of people and teams, rather than leading via a hierarchy. A network approach facilitates iterative, fast, collaborative conversations and decisions.
- Encourage experimentation. Leaders should think like innovators. They need to provide space for employees to try new things, learn from them, adjust, and scale. They should encourage and reward learning, even if it comes with less-than-successful efforts. This is often referred to as “failing forward” because it’s not always about if the experiment succeeds or fails. What matters is if people can learn from it.
To learn more about how digital leaders can develop new skills and combine them with tried-and-true skills of the past, check out McKendrick’s full article from Forbes attached below.