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Leading in a digital era

Are you ready to lead in an era of digital disruption or will you wake up one day and as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”?

Digital leadership

The days of ring-fencing digital transformation to an IT department are long gone. In today’s organisations, digital leadership has become a core leadership competence and digital maturity is required to ensure an agile response to changes in the environment in an appropriate manner.

Increasingly, organisations require talent, culture and organisational structures to be in sync with the digital environments around them. Leadership that understands this is required since some of the biggest threats of digital disruption are internal to the organisation, e.g. inflexible culture, complacency and lack of agility.

Leaders need to create environments that encourage existing employees to start thinking and working differently.

After all, our lives, both corporate and social, are largely built on the backbone of the big four i.e. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. We are embedded in data and digitisation, whether we like it or not.

What leaders should know

When people search for products, 55% start on Amazon, 28% on Google and the almost insignificant balance of 17% would be through other channels. If you are a leader in a retail company this is critical to your future.

One of every six minutes online is spent on Facebook and Apple’s cash on hand in 2016 was nearly the GDP of Denmark.

These four companies have been responsible for placing a supercomputer in your employees’ pockets and unfortunately far too often they experience technology in their work environments that pale in comparison to their personal interactions with technology.

Airbnb and Uber have totally transformed the idea of owning a car or paying huge premiums for hotels – just a few years ago this would only have been possible in the minds of Steven Spielberg and the like. It leaves one wondering what is next and whether we will be ready.

Leaders of the future will need to intimately understand how data and digitisation impact their employees, their customers and ultimately their organisations. Everyone knows that digital disruption is real and is happening now, not someplace in the future. When interviewed, 84% of the respondents agreed that becoming a digital business is important for their organisation’s success (The Technology Fallacy).

The gap

It is the gap between knowing and doing that seems to trap most leaders. They know digital disruption is happening but they are not doing anything about it. Surely the purpose of knowing something is to act in accordance with that knowledge. Apparently not, since many leaders are waiting to see the evidence for disruption in their organisation or their business unit’s bottom line before acting. Unfortunately, by the time the evidence appears, it may be too late.

Many leaders get caught by the competency trap, believing that factors of their past success will also lead to future success. They continue to focus on productivity and efficiency rather than learning, growth, and innovation. Digital disruption is really about people and their ability to adjust as fast as their technology is changing and then leading their organisations to adjust as quickly as possible to an ever-changing technological landscape.

The topic is vast and exciting and I will be writing more about it going forward. This piece was merely a brief introduction to get you thinking about your leadership relevance and what you possibly need to consider to future-proof your career.

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