Digital Leadership? Or Leadership in a Digital World?

Digital Leadership: it’s a buzzword in the business world. As a business leader, you will have noticed you can’t open a website or go to a conference without being acutely aware that you need to take your organisation in a more ‘digital’ direction.

You are, however, in danger of going the wrong way. For the phrase has created an impression – possibly a false one -  that being digital is about technology and that digital leadership is about having a single leader. If you think this, you’ll likely find yourself on a slippery slope. To say that digital is not just about technology is the subject of numerous posts and muses online so we won't go into it here. However, digital leadership actually comes in many guises and you must recognise and ensure you have all present to start strong and embark on a complete rethink of current business models to ever hope to really engage socially on a wider scale.

Nothing new here but leadership is not all about a single person but about a coalition of power, vision and skill that starts and more importantly maintains transformation. Businesses need technology change, people change, culture change, complete business change; and one person alone cannot do this.

First and foremost a wholehearted mandate for an organisational sea change from you and your team at the highest level of business, will secure success for your organisation in the digital future. You then need people of influence, with expertise and skill-sets in technology, communication, people and culture.  

For although we said that digital is not all about tech, tech is going to play a huge part in your transformation efforts. Communication is another key area that often gets paid no more than lip service in transformational efforts. And a good communications (or engagement) plan is therefore an essential and not a desirable in any digital transformation.

People hold the key to creating credibility and commitment to the digital journey.  Culture change is on the cards because the way you do things at every level of business is going to change and only the right mindset will allow for this to happen.

Believers, inspirers, people who are willing to have a go, to test things, try things and learn new things are necessary. These are the people that already have the mindset of change.  They will create momentum to help move along the transformational process.  They are your first advocates. Go out and find them before you tackle anything else.

Lastly, one of the major outputs of digital transformation is the democratisation of business.  So you need to bring some new and fresh digital native blood into the mix too. There is much for us to learn from the born digitals, as there is much for the digitals to learn from experience.

As you can see, becoming a digital business involves getting power, capability, advocacy and new blood working holistically to secure your businesses place on the new modern world stage.

This is the beginning of your journey to becoming adaptive. To start strong, to understanding where you are in the journey to know where to focus; vision, rather than a digital strategy, to guide the organisation to becoming more digital; good-news stories demonstrating the success digital to inspire the whole business. 

To summarise, there is no single point of leadership that drives digital transformation. Whilst the trigger or 'change agent' might be a single person you must quickly bring the key competencies together to form your coalition.  Secondly, start to deliver and execute through a broad (but not exclusive) Centre of Excellence, bringing your first followers, born digitals into the mix.  Not only will this group provide you with results, they will become your advocates to bring others along with them. Finally, you are ready to create a business movement, and that's when Digital Transformation really starts to happen!

Everything is in a state of constant change: our world, our behaviour as consumers, our daily lives. See the changes coming, assess the changes, act to adapt to those changes, start strong and engage socially and you will be one of the successful businesses of the future. 

These thoughts and musings are taken from previous blogs and Whitepapers created by Mel Ross, CEO Adapt2Digital.