Why Organizations Need Digital Leaders With These Five Key Strengths

from Forbes

Much has been said about the critical need for organizations to embrace technology and outpace digital disruption — and I couldn’t agree more. But the critical question in this discussion is: “How?” What exactly are the best practices and strategies companies must master to successfully undergo digital transformation?

My organization set out to answer that question in a study of nearly 3,000 workers and 900 hiring decision-makers across the U.S., and we found many organizations are still struggling to conquer the post-digital frontier.

However, among companies that have mastered the digital realm, we uncovered a common thread: They all have digital leaders within the organization who are committed to embracing, implementing and leveraging digital innovation to drive business success.  

The Common Thread: Digital Leadership

The Digital Revolution has dramatically altered the leadership skills and behaviors needed to succeed in a post-digital landscape. In fact, 95% of surveyed organizations agreed that “a different, new type of leadership is required to effectively address changes in organizational structures and operating models due to digitalization.” Yet only 37% believe they have a strong digital leader in place today. Beyond failing digital initiatives and lack of cohesive corporate strategy, the absence of effective leadership can even negatively impact an organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent.

More here.

14 Responses to Why Organizations Need Digital Leaders With These Five Key Strengths

  1. Pedro Navarrete October 9, 2018 at 2:41 pm #

    Leadership is an important concept no matter what type of field we are in. It is very important to have the right type of person in that leadership to motivate and lead others. Now with technology having a bigger role in our workshop, we need to adapt to our surrounding and adjust our leadership styles just a bit to have a more positive impact in our outcomes. In “Why Organizations Need Digital Leaders With These Five Key Strengths,” Professor Shannon goes into detail on five strengths that are needed to be considered as a digital leader. He believes we need to have the ability to inspire others, leveraging technology, encourages collaboration, drive innovation, and manage risk. I completely agree with Professor Shannon and will work on these particular skills in the future to be more successful in my career.

    The digital world is not for everyone as we seen companies excel from this change and other companies who have disappeared because they did not know how to adapt. We need to keep up with the industry and make us feel like we are one step ahead of everyone else. The leader of the organization will need to apply those skills listed above and he/she will see positives trends. One skill I believe is very important is encourage others to collaborate. The world was make up to have everyone work with one another to make any project less difficult and more efficient. Every leader needs to understand and implement this in their workplace. With more brains working together, we can have multiple perspectives and ideas to help the organization move forward. Especially in this digital age, it is important to work more effectively because a company can easier get lost within themselves and become forgotten in their respective market.

    Another important skill for digital leaders is leveraging technology. This is what the digital is all about so if we fail to take advantage of our technology given to us, this will cause potential obstacles for us to succeed. Implementing technology into our business strategy will enhance our productivity and stay up to date with what our competitors are doing as well. I don’t believe the leader needs to has all the technological skills required, but he/she needs to understand the importance of technology and have someone on his/her team that can use the technology to move the company forward.

  2. RyanL October 11, 2018 at 10:30 am #

    In the ever evolving and technology-driven environment of business, the need for “digital leaders” is crucial for an organization’s success and development. Whether a company is dealing with domestic or international competition, achieving competitive advantage through technology advancements and digitization has become a necessary component in today’s society, in either maintaining or increasing market capitalization. Retrospectively, a popular example that comes to mind after reading this article relates to Blockbuster’s downfall. Although there were many factors that contributed to its undoing, a prominent reason was the changing competitive landscape in the entertainment/internet space. Companies such as Netflix, Apple, and Amazon began to offer video-on demand and streaming, which bolstered their respective performances and industry outlook in comparison to the “bricks and mortar” model of Blockbuster. When Blockbuster began to “catch up”, it was already well-behind its competitors and ultimately failed to recoup the losses associated with inadequate timing. Reed Hastings, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos placed emphasis on technology integration in their respective companies, which have grown exponentially since the downfall of Blockbuster. As stated in the article, a digital leader must be able to leverage emerging technologies, especially to complement his or her organization’s business model in regards to functionality, efficiency, and feasibility. In this case, these leaders recognized an opportunity to take advantage through innovation involving the internet in strategizing for long-term growth and meeting target expectations, while also eliminating a previously dominant competitor.

    Digital leaders should also be able to encourage collaboration and prioritize this as a valuable asset. With cloud-computing software, leaders in the accounting industry have recognized its benefits in recent years. The firm I interned for utilized a cloud-based system, and it was efficient because of the transparency given between the auditors and clients, in regards to tracking progress for the evidence gathering activities and the preparation of the audited financial statements. Additionally, it expedited the retrieval for important supporting transmittals, such as bank statements and client workbook information. Incorporating this type of software was beneficial for the company in not only expediting certain processes between parties, but it also significantly improved communication between one another.

  3. Anthony Ciaralli October 11, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    One thing about technology is that it is constantly changing. It is important to understand where customers are spending most of their time, and where they buy products. Most customers choose to buy their products online, and not in stores. Since so many customers are staying home to buy products, companies have debated on whether, or not, they should use their online presence. Some companies that didn’t adapt to the internet are not in business anymore. With this online presence it is important to have strong leadership to motivate and be successful as a company.
    The five key strengths discussed in the article are inspiring others, leveraging technology, encouraging collaboration, drive innovation, and manages risk. Since there is more companies competing online, there is no better time to have a digital leader. Digital leaders are important today because they can really make a company be successful or not. Being a digital leader means you will have to take risks, be open to ideas, encourage teamwork, embrace new technologies, and be influential. A company with a leader will be set the company up for success.

    • Clement Bourret October 11, 2018 at 9:19 pm #

      I found this article very interesting and useful for any companies in this period or technologic revolution. The first and third strength “inspires others” and “encourages collaboration” emphasize on personal influence, how an individual can drive people throughout his thoughts, decisions, opinions or actions and how collaboration can be beneficial. The second strength “leverages technology” shows how it is crucial to be able to assimilate technology with the overall business strategy. The fourth and fifth strength are related according to me in the way where technology has to drive innovation. Innovation means taking risks that means a manager has to be able to innovate being conscious of all the risks taken and anticipate the worst possible outcome by planning a plan accordingly.
      Digital leadership refers to the strategic use of a company’s digital assets to achieve business goals, it can be addressed at both organizational and individual levels. On the organizational level, the sandwich company Subway is a good example of digital leadership. the CIO Carman Wenkoff has hired a bank of technology, marketing and operational professionals in order to manage better the website, mobile apps, payment systems and loyalty programs. This include a reorganization of departments with data analytics, campaign management, software development specific to digital, user design experts and graphic design. This will help others in the business to thrive by learning valuable skills and gaining practical experience from new forward-thinking recruits. On the individual level, the 5 strengths cited by the article are fundamentals. When being asked in an interview with LinkedIn Executive Editor Daniel Roth, Jack Welch, CEO at GE talked about the business perspective of being a digital leader. He said “When they trust you, you’ll get truth. And if you get truth, you get speed. If you get speed, you’re going to act”. Trusting the people in charge of digital assets is essential for a business. It brings faster all the data informations needed to make more logical and efficient decisions which will create competitive advantage for a company.

      https://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/digital-leadership

      https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/the-insider/01-11-17-digital-transformation-5-examples-of-organizations-that-excel

  4. Tess Coorens October 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

    Technology is a key factor in the business world nowadays. It has helped companies grow by decreasing many flaws and reducing the risks in businesses. It also has sped up business chains and made them more efficient. Companies should embrace the growing of technology and use it in their advantage. Something that could help them is the use of a digital leader that is committed to embracing and implementing these digital innovations. The technology asks for this new type of leadership, however not a lot of people require the skills to help. The good news is that this new role in businesses can be developed. The article “Why Organizations Need Digital Leaders With These Five Key Strengths” explains the five key strengths a digital leader needs to help out. They need to be able to inspire others, leverage technology, encourage collaboration, drive innovation and manage risk. I agree that these aspects are important for a leader in today’s work environment. Leaders should inspire others to strive for the highest possible in their work environment. It brings more cohesiveness on the work floor and if you are able to inspire others, this also means that you are respected as a leader. Next the leaders need to be able to keep up with the new technology and work with it themselves. Once they have it covered on how to use the data and recognize patterns, they can teach and encourage other employees to work with the new technology. Another aspect that is important is the drive for innovation. Which I think is one of the most important aspects a leader should focus on. Technology has involved so much over the past few years but there is so much that can still be developed. Companies are racing each other to come up with the newest developments considering technology to improve their business. The competitiveness scale is high which forces companies to come up with new innovations all the time. This helps companies to push their employees to work harder and aspire to be the one changing and influencing a new method on the work floor. An example is the car industry. Companies first came up with new cars that are able to be driven automatic instead of manual. Next, they are looking for cars to be better for the environment and developed cars that drive on energy such as solar energy. And currently companies are trying to develop driverless cars where they is no longer a person needed to drive the cars around. The industry is pushing the companies to innovate and use technology to develop more and more ideas to make the product better than it was before. Which shows the last key factor leaders should pay attention to, because all these innovations in technology will reduce the risk in a lot of companies. That is what makes growing with the technology developments so important for companies. The importance of technology in companies has grown and I think it’s important for the companies to move forward.

  5. Shaunak Rajurkar October 17, 2018 at 3:12 am #

    Digital leadership is a crucial part of any company’s continuous effort to remain up to date. A corporations success is not solely determined upon its fundamental strategy and beliefs, but it is moreso based upon its ability to stay “modern.” Darwin’s theory of evolution parallels this concept:

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

    Every business will die if it is unable to adapt to change, so many companies have taken proactive strategies to combat their deaths. Many “progressive” companies, especially in tech, have made an attempt to BE the change. Silicon Valley is a perfect example of this. One singular region has catalyzed, and ultimately revolutionized an entire industry, and from the second and third-hand effects, the locals have created an entire culture rooted in forward thinking. This includes anything from progressive politics, to encouraging health-conscious diets, environmental consciousness, a resurgence in farm-to-table dining, and an odd style of “expensive minimalism.”

    This is driven by innovation from tech – the industry with the most digital leaders.

    Each of the tenets of a digital leader seems incredibly vague at first glance. When they are applied together, the idea becomes more concrete

    The first characteristic of a digital leader is that they must inspire others. The article lists nothing about the process of inspiration itself, but simply states that a leader should be able to reach consensus regarding a vision, and that they must be able to instill a sense of optimism among a group.

    The rest of the characteristics follow naturally, as they include leveraging technology, managing risk, driving innovation, and encouraging collaboration. Digital leaders will naturally have a large following, thus the utilization of these attributes is essential to manage a sizable group. Furthermore, a company must now hold themselves to a competitive mantra that insists that they must “disrupt or be disrupted.” Companies can no longer be reluctant about adapting new technologies. If any degree of consensus is reached with desire to experiment with a new technology, it must be given priority. Companies that encourage side-projects have been consistently thriving in new fields. For example, Google was able to pioneer AI as a result of this, and Square is conversely at the forefront of blockchain technology. Reluctance simply hinders innovation. If capital allows for it, corporations must generously allocate resources to R&D to promote innovation. This is the ideal legacy of a digital leader.

  6. Amber Stile October 18, 2018 at 10:34 am #

    The article by Jim Link is very helpful to rising Seniors who will soon be thrown into the job market. At Rider, professors strongly encourage and promote technology usage and involvement, which will help when seeking out jobs or even in current internships/co-ops.
    From the article, it’s clear that hiring managers in various organizations truly want individuals who can manage the ever changing digital world. 95% of the study understand that a different type of leadership is required to succeed in this new market, but only 37% actually have a capable employee in this position. Without a capable employee managing the digital aspect of their company, a corporation could end up with poor marketing and not attract as many ‘top-tier’ applicants because they aren’t a front-runner in their industry. In order to prevent this, Link explains that companies need to identify and encourage their digital leaders in order to stay on top. While this article is geared towards encouraging companies to find these individuals, I believe it’s incredibly helpful to refine my skill-set to better fit this category, and I feel the same applies to any college student reading it.
    The first key identifier is the ability to inspire others. This is crucial for a digital leader because this technology and these ideas are new, and, to some people, confusing. A digital leader has to be able to inspire their team to hop on board with the new actions and to develop their own opinions – this can only be accomplished by encouraging the team to stay open-minded. Next, the digital leader can leverage technology, meaning they understand what technology can do for them, and how to use it. As technology continues to grow and evolve, it is important for leaders to understand these changes to continue using the products. Collaboration is also important, but I think driving innovation is the next crucial topic. A company will never last if it doesn’t have innovative employees, and if they can be innovative while using or incorporating new technology, it just increases the longevity of the company. Finally, Link mentions risk management as another key indicator of a digital leader. While it is encouraged to be courageous and to be innovative, it needs to be within an appropriate range of risk. A company doesn’t want someone too stuck in previous ways to make a change, but they also cannot risk someone who tries to change things too much too soon – change must be gradual to reduce the chance of it turning out poorly, and a digital leader is aware of this.
    I know that I have some of these skills, but I know I can always improve and reading this article gave me some insight. I now know what to look ahead to when seeking ways to better myself for the corporate world.

  7. Rableen Sudan October 19, 2018 at 8:31 pm #

    As a current college student, I have come to realize that digital literacy is a skill that many working individuals in corporations do not have. Moreover, some companies aren’t adapting to technology fast enough, which is leaving them behind in this innovative world.

    As a current business student, the first thing my college promotes is technology, and how it can help organize, innovate, and help with the tasks assigned. Thus, I believe that recent college students, although lack corporate experience, would become to be great leaders due to their digital literacy. The article even discusses how the definition of today’s leader has changed, from the traditional set of skill to five new digital set of skills. One of the skills that I agreed with was, inspiring others. It is a combination of traditional leadership that includes authority, team-orientation, collaboration, with personal influence. The trait of personal influence is what makes him/her a digital leader. It gives the leader the ability to inspire others in discussing the goals of the company and gives them motivation and determination in not only doing their jobs, but also bringing innovation to conduct their jobs more effectively and efficiently. Another skill set (out of the five skills) that I believe would help any corporation or organization is managing risks. When a company is coming up with any sort of innovation there is always that chance that it will not work out. However, if a company doesn’t take the risk then they is a chance of falling behind in this digital world. Thus, a professional leader in today’s world must take calculated digital risks that encourage team members to innovate and perform tasks efficiently and effectively.

    I personally believe, as a student entering the corporate world, adapting to technology and becoming a leader will come naturally. For instance, last week at one of my interviews, the interviewer and I were discussing the changes in technology and how their company would be adapting. He mentioned that the only reason that they were looking for students from the college I am enrolled in is due to the SAP certification that the college offers. The company was actually making a shift from another system to the SAP system and would like to have students that are familiar with the technology on hand. As a current student in the SAP certification program, I felt like I had the upper hand. Again, this example explains how important it is to adapt to technology and welcome to constant innovation.

  8. Elyse N Cuttic October 26, 2018 at 10:31 pm #

    Technology is changing every facet of life including leadership. More specifically, digital leadership at the top of companies. It is no secret one must be technological savvy in order to work today. The question is how much and how much do companies have to adapt along with their leadership. This article covers the most important points of why having a digital leader will only help a company succeed. It has been stated by workers that a leader needs to be tech savvy in order to lead, but less than half the people think their bosses are actually strong digital leaders. I personally believe the number of strong digital leaders will only increase because technology is only becoming more common.
    The one point that stuck with me the most was how digital leaders must encourage collaboration. To me I think this point was by far the most important. This portion stated that collaboration of organizations around the world benefit the company. I think this is true and is being done more efficiently because of the technology provided to us. Offices around the world for the same company are more easily able to reach each other by phone, email, or video chat. I personally believe video chat is making it easier for people to get work done. This allows people to put a face to a name. They then begin to build trust and makes the decision-making process go faster. This portion talks a lot about effective collaboration, it even gave the idea for leaders to not only give directions but participates in team activities. For me when I am working I appreciate it when a leader listens to others ideas instead of just making one final decision. This also ties in with the fact that some people are more advanced technological wise than others. Leaders must learn everyone strengths and give tasks that are tailored to them.

  9. Cassandra Sibilski November 1, 2018 at 1:30 pm #

    We are in a world right now where pretty much everything in business is going digital and online. This article discusses the importance of having a person in a company that is the so called “leader” of this transition, to basically make sure the company is where it needs to be in terms of its online footprint, in order to be successful. I think that this is a very important position in a company, that many companies are lacking, and I think making sure every company has someone managing the internet aspect of the business can be very helpful, but often might be getting overlooked. According to a statistic in this article, only 37% of companies surveyed, thought they had a strong “digital leader”. That is a pretty small number, and definately should be going up as the years go on. The article then discusses how the “leader” should have 5 qualities to ultimately be successful in what he’s doing for the company. The first is that they should be inspiring to others, meaning that they should be able to make things more personal. I agree that this first one is very important, because the more you’re able to connect with people, the better. The second involves the leader being able to take new technologies and programs, and put them to use and stay up to date with them. I think this one is very crucial because you have to be able to move with the times, and technology is constantly changing, so having someone who is able to keep up with this is very beneficial. The third one that’s talked about is the ability to encourage and foster collaboration among the company. This definitely needs to happen for a company to work together as a unit, and technology and programs can only help this, and an internet leader will only be able to help this along by figuring out what types of programs work for the people at their company. The fourth one is for this person to be able to drive innovation, and I agree because this goes along with being able to keep up with the constantly changing times. And the fifth one is that the internet leader needs to be able to manage risk, as with all technology and computer programs, there is risk when it comes to hackers, data breaches etc. I think that someone successful in this position would ultimately be able to continually move with the times and ever changing technology, while still keeping a level head and be able to analyze the risks of what they are engaging in.

  10. Nora Trapp November 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

    This article is a perfect example of how technology has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, which in this case is the workforce. Just look at this statistic, “95% of surveyed organizations agreed that “a different, new type of leadership is required to effectively address changes in organizational structures and operating models due to digitalization.” In other words, academic and extracurricular certifications that were once looked upon as exemplary have now taken a new low. Throughout reading this article one thing that strongly stuck with me was the realization of how expectations are increasingly higher due to the influence of disruptive technologies. Like the article addresses, company CEO’s and leaders are now not only required to excel in their specified field, but also expected to understand and develop an expertise in the development of technologies. Additionally, while reading this I couldn’t help but realize how applicable this was to my generation and especially future generations that will be growing up with the continuous advancements in technology. In terms of my personal application to this article, I am a senior completing my undergraduate degree and have recently applied to master’s program in Germany. Originally, I was planning on applying to a master’s program in Management; however, the university that I wanted to apply to did not offer solely a program in Management. Instead, they offered a Master in Management & Technology degree. This is exactly what this article is referring to, society needs leaders that have just as strong a leadership and management background as they do in technology – which is what the university I am applying to recognizes, and chooses to fulfill. In my personal opinion I still think the possibilities of technology these days are absurd; however, the reality is that there is no limit to what technology can influence. And the reason for this is because there is so much of the technological field that hasn’t even been discovered or tapped into.

  11. Alexander Fialkowsky November 23, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

    The coming of the digital age should be no surprise to anyone at this point. Nor should the idea that this new era of business will require new leadership, as well as new leadership techniques. The implementation of the internet and vast other amounts of technology have made running a business almost like a race. A race that will ultimately decide the fate of companies across the world. As more and more people become interconnected to the web, it is assumed that businesses will have a harder time to attract customers to their business due to the infinite amount of other advertisements consumers will encounter while online. A very effective solution to avoid this problem is having someone in charge that knows how to make a face for his or her company online. From my point of view, it seems as though there are not as many businesses with youthful leadership because older generations are clinging to their power, as well as old ways, thinking that they can get buy like they always have. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. In the past, businesses had other media outlets and forms of advertisement such as newspapers, television and even billboards to market their products. All of these platforms combined do not outweigh the value an internet presence can give to a company. It also seems to me that the companies that are trying to have a strong online presence are doing so by having old leadership delegate these tasks to younger “think tanks”. In most cases these older leaders take credit for the ideas of these groups. It is unfortunate yet, there is not much that can be done to protect these young adults due to the agreements they likely signed with these companies. In a perfect world, as generations started to reach the age of retirement and passing on leadership positions to the youth, it would be a gradual learning process with a smooth transition that everyone expects. However, in our world, it is often seen that when these scenarios arise, the struggle for power decreases productivity on all levels until the stalemate is broken and the power void is filled, usually not with the right person. If we want to move towards a better future we must allow those who will outlive us into that future learn and succeed.

  12. Robert Musantry November 25, 2018 at 11:17 pm #

    The idea that businesses across the world need leaders who embrace technology is not exactly surprising, considering where our society is at. I can see this idea being applied in my own life, as when I have had teachers/professors who use today’s technology in their classes, I get more out of the class. I am able to learn about the subject matter while also learning about problem solving using modern devices and programs. When I am forced to use pen and paper, it feels like we are going back in time and I am just not able to learn that way. That is why I feel that my generation will be prepared to be these digital leaders in the very near future, once we graduate college and enter the work force. In this article, it found that 37% of organizations they surveyed felt they had a digital leader currently in place helping their organization progress. I think this has to do with the idea that many people who are in these leadership roles did not grow up around the technology we have today and never bothered to learn it. I mean, they got to where they are without it so why bother? But, as corporations start to fall behind to more technologically efficient competitors, being able to use technology or at least being willing to learn it will play a major impact on who is hired and who is left behind, if it has not already.
    The specific qualities that the article says that are important are: Inspires Others, Leverages Technology, Encourages Collaboration, Drives Innovation, and Manages Risk. At the surface level, these are all pretty self-explanatory. Inspiring others is always something leaders do, and it is even more important when talking about technology because of the learning curve and commitment required to working collaboratively in the digital world. Leveraging technology is obvious, we want leaders to be able to get the most out of whatever tools they have, digital or not. Then, the next two relate back to the first two, because encouraging collaboration as a lot to do with inspiring others, and driving innovation is the same thing as leveraging technology since leaders need to use the technology to the best of their abilities in order to innovate. Finally, managing risk is super important, since technology creates so many more risks that we have never seen before. The leaders will have to be able to handle these risks without hurting the company.

  13. John Skalski November 30, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

    It is very hard to become a leader, or boss, at work because it takes a certain amount of skills to hold such a position. There is a reason why there is always more workers rather than bosses within every company. A lot of people are able to master the skill of working, but few are able to master the skill of working and use that skill to help lead others in the work that they do. Take into consideration the fact that technology is truly taking over the world, so now leaders not only have to figure out ways to guide people, but they have now do it with technology involved. When people are able to master this skill, then they can truly call themselves leaders and deserve to be in the position that they are in. A good boss or leader is able to figure out every one of his or her employee’s best position and how they should be utilized within the workplace. Every employee is different and works in many unique and different ways. What may work for somebody is not guaranteed to work for everybody else. Take for the example, a boss of the company has a certain way that he or she does their work and they force that exact way upon their employees that is not good because that boss is then limiting the work that can actually be done. The best bosses will instead tell their employees the work that has to be done and just as long as it gets done then everything is good. Some people like to work with a deadline and others like to work knowing that they have some time to do it, but in the end just as long as the work gets done then everything should be alright. I currently hold a position where I am a boss of a good number of people, and one of the things that I always tell my employees is that just as long as you get the work done that I ask you and you follow the rules then everything is okay with me. I’ll even reward them if I see that they are doing a great job or going above and beyond what is required of them. Being a boss is not easy, but figuring out how to get the best out of your workers should always be top priority because they are just as important as the work itself.

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