What are the qualities of a digital leader?

From C-Suite to the Digital Suite: How to Lead through Digital Transformation
Digitisation, automation, artificial intelligence and more: the impact of technology will be enormous. And the pace of disruption is accelerating.

Digital disruption is going to drive a reset of organisations, both large and small. To remain competitive, organisations will need to transform themselves. And they will also need to embrace new forms of leadership.

This last aspect is vital. From HR to senior management, leaders will need to keep the business running with one hand, while preparing for an uncertain future with the other.

They will need to be agile and open to change. They will need to be able to take calculated risks, fail fast, learn, adjust, and re-calibrate. These are some of the new forms of leadership that businesses require. And there are some very compelling reasons why organisations should embrace them.

Digital leadership: are you ready to lead?

Today, more than 90% of employers expect digitisation to impact them. 75% of business leaders believe it will need brand new skills. And a study by Capgemini found that companies who embrace digital transformation are benefiting – 26% are more profitable than their competitors, and they have up to 12% higher market valuation.

But a survey by ManpowerGroup shows concern among HR leaders. 87% of those surveyed don’t believe they have the leadership talent to drive success. Yet, despite this pessimistic outlook, there are reasons to be optimistic.

80% of the capabilities that have always made leaders effective will remain the same. The other 20% are qualities that weren’t so necessary before, but will be vital for digital leaders to adopt now.

So what are the personal qualities that define a ‘digital leader’?

Qualities of the “80%” (traditional) leader

Let’s first begin by looking at a traditional leader and their suitability for the digital era.

Leaders have spent years developing valuable skills. They have the tenacity to work through failure. And they have navigated the career lattice, acquiring first-hand experience of change. As organisations undergo rapid changes, their leadership experience will prove very important.

To succeed in the digital era, the capabilities and qualities these “80%” leaders are going to need are:

  • Adaptability: and being comfortable with ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty
  • Drive: with the hunger, energy and desire to be successful
  • Endurance: with high degrees of resilience, tenacity and stamina
  • Brightness: being intellectually curious and sharp, and a continuous learner.

They will also need to demonstrate curiosity and learnability. These two traits are going to be particularly vital given the rapid emergence of new skills.

In fact, “80%” leaders will need to be willing to seek out different experiences, unusual perspectives, and be open to fresh ideas. They will also need to have an understanding of the technical skills required to transform their business.

Digital leadership – qualities of the “20%” (digital) leader

Yet these traits aren’t enough by themselves. To be an effective and successful digital leader, individuals will need embrace other attributes.

Let’s explore some of these.

1. Unleash talent.

  • Digital leaders will unleash talent by attracting and developing high potential talent from inside and outside the organisation. They’ll build a culture that encourages ongoing career development and provide employees with a sense of purpose.

2. Accelerate performance.

  • They’ll ensure employees understand how their role helps the company reach its goals. At the same time, they’ll also champion cross-functional collaboration. Both things in combination will accelerate performance.

3. Dare to lead.

  • They will empower mid-level leaders to be innovative, take risks, and manage courageous decisions. All of which will be vital to achieve effective organisational transformation.

Learn more

To learn more about this topic, you can download a copy of our Whitepaper: From C-Suite to the Digital Suite: How to Lead through Digital Transformation.