Traits of a Successful Digital Leader

Digital Leadership is not just about being Tech-savvy.
Find out what it takes to be a Successful Digital Leader.

Before I talk about digital leadership, let me share with you the most helpful and simple definition I’ve searched pertaining to the buzz word DIGITAL.  Tom Loosemore defines digital as “Applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations”.

We often think about digital in terms of social media, websites, apps and digital marketing. We also think about it in terms of innovation and of cutting-edge technologies that can transform our business and gain for us competitive advantage.

A successful digital leader must bear in mind that while technology and all those tools that I have mentioned are important, the people part of transformation is just as crucial. Effective communication must flow within the organization and the human element must not be forgotten, as it is key to connecting with both internal and external customers. We need to enhance the experience of our employees, clients, suppliers and end-users.

According to Deloitte, 42% of large companies now believe that it is very important to invest in developing leaders to succeed in this digital age.

Great digital leaders don’t just possess a wealth of digital knowledge, they also demonstrate solid interpersonal skills. So, what does digital leadership look like? What are the necessary skills and important traits of a digital leader?

I have identified seven (7) essential qualities of a successful digital leader such as:

1. Visionary
A digital leader can see into the future and has a clear, exciting idea of where the organization is going and what it is trying to accomplish. Customers will definitely love patronizing a company whose leader espouses a compelling vision that employees believe in. To lead the organization forward, management must have a vision that inspires unity in the workplace. This is a trait that makes a digital leader stand out from the rest.

Steve Jobs was one of the greatest digital visionaries of our time, refusing to let his own limited technological skills stand in the way of bringing his ambitions to life, ultimately revolutionizing the world of tech gadgets, animated movies and digital music.

2. Communication
In the past, leaders were more aloof and detached from their workforce. But in the digital age, communication among all levels in the organization is a must. With technology, digital leaders should build a strong network of communication from the top to the bottom of the organization. It will help management connect with employees, keep them abreast of changes and empower them to adapt and learn to stay current.

In my previous company, our CEO often used videos in communicating with us, managers. We update each other on company achievements, current issues, projects and events via Skype.

3. Innovative
Leaders must be willing to try new technologies and platforms, and keep abreast of developments in the digital sphere. This can be quite a challenge for the older generation, including me, as this would mean turning back from proven traditional practices and beliefs. However, being open to the possibilities of new systems, processes and strategies presents bigger opportunity for growth and competitiveness.

4. Adaptable
It is vital that a digital leader remains flexible and adaptable when sudden changes in the industry occur. He must be ready to make quickfire decisions to keep the company on track with minimal negative impact. A leader who is rigid and has a fixed mindset will likely lead the company to obsolescence. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to get stuck with a company that is stagnating.

A recent survey highlighted the growing importance of adaptability in business, with 91% Recruitment Managers believing that people will be hired based on their ability to deal with change.

5. Risk-taker
Risk-taking is fast becoming a vital ingredient of digital leadership, according to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Innovation is impossible without risk. Change is never risk-free. If you can’t take risks, you will not be a good digital leader.

6. Proficient in Networking
Digital leaders understand and appreciate the value of networking.
Not only will they focus on forging relationships, creating partnerships, and gathering important data, but they will also search for new venues to connect with people. Instead of attending the same local conference, you might find them on lesser known online forums, at start-up pitches, internet summits and business fairs.

7. Ethical
Last, but not the least and which I consider the most ideal, is the ethical quality.  Is your boss honest, straightforward, considerate and fair? Do you trust him and know that he will protect your rights and private details? Do you feel secure because he focuses on your needs, finding time to address your concerns through any available channels such as text messaging, email, viber, etc.? Does he set good examples, hold everyone to the same standard, and make his expectations clear? If so, you’re lucky! Your boss is a great guy.

An ethical leader does the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, putting his ethics before the bottom line. This makes it more likely his team will be loyal, dedicated and ethical, in return.

In a nutshell, being a successful digital leader means having an inspiring vision, adopting an efficient communication strategy, being innovative and adaptable to change, taking risk, able to network and being ethical.

Do you have what it takes to lead in the digital age? Are you equipped with the necessary digital leadership skills to thrive in this new frontier? Congratulations in advance!

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