Can any leader declare that they have truly become a digital leader and that their organisation has been fully transformed in the new digital world? The first problem in making such a declaration is that there is no agreement on what being a digital leader means. Even the language around digital transformation is only properly developing now.
There are however, core fundamentals to digital leadership. These are the essentials that every leader must now take on board if they are to successfully drive their organisation forward in the digital age. Digital is an energy force and has to be understood and maximised by leaders otherwise they will lag behind those organisations that are becoming digitally mature.
Today’s situation is analogous to the uptake in electricity by enterprises over 100 years ago. Looking back it seems ridiculous that leaders faced the same dilemmas then. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious that organisations who didn’t transform to maximise electricity would fail. The pace of digital uptake and its impact is considered to be doubling every year – so much faster than electricity. Leaders need to digitally lead now. They need to digitally transform their organisations now.
What are these fundamentals? The first one is that you need to operate within a digital transformation framework. If you don’t you will be blown off course, you will be distracted, you will choose tactics over strategy, you will not have a golden thread joining up strategy, culture, structure, communication, technology and data.
A digital leader will:
Use data driven analysis rather than subjective analysis
Set vision rather than aspiration
Develop customer or citizen based strategy rather than inside-out plans
Outline coherent action rather than disjointed performance programmes
Focus on outcomes rather than outputs
Above all the digital leader will recognise that digital transformation is not about technology but about strategy, structure, culture, capabilities and understanding the customer or citizen.
Technology and new digital capabilities allow leaders to have access to data not possible before, allow leaders to undertake rapid testing not possible before, allow leaders to interrogate systems not possible before; but technology is a tool to be used by the leader rather than the endgame.
The biggest mistake being made by leaders is to regard the introduction of new technology and digital capabilities such as websites, social media and online activity as fulfilling the requirements of digital leadership.
At Ionology we have developed the only peer reviewed digital transformation framework, which ensures the modern digital leader can have a ‘golden thread’ joining up all the organisation’s activities as they digitally transform.
A digital leader doesn’t need to understand how the technology works, just learn how to use it to create competitive advantage.