10 digital leadership skills leaders want to possess

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The digital transformation put leaders on the spot to develop personal digital skills. Knowing enough to be an efficient leader and an exciting sounding board for a team doing the work. Here is a smorgasbord of 10 ideas you can consider picking from for your own development.

Become an ambidextrous leader

Leadership on a digital transformation journey is a balancing act. Balancing between managing/optimizing your classic business and leading your new digital. Focusing on one, and delegating the other is not an option. As your role is to secure a successful transformation between the two.

Aspire to become an ambidextrous leader. With a clear idea on how you split your time, between managing classic and leading digital business.

Engage in conversations on the digital arena

Social media have created a dynamic communication environment. Adopted for conversations that matter to your customers and eco-system partners. A reality where digital / social media illiteracy is a severe limitation. Challenge your current choice. Where being professional on LinkedIn and private on Facebook dominate.

Start your journey start be defining which role to play in digital conversations. Are you the one leading by posting novel ideas and thoughts. The one often stepping up first in a meeting and sketching with a black pen on a white board. Your second option is to be then healthy skeptic. Engaging early with alternative viewpoints making original ideas better. The person using a red pen on the white board. Your third option is to read, reflect and relay great thoughts from others. The active reader picking out the best parts of a text with a yellow highlighter.

Aspire to define your natural digital preference. And be realistic as 1% lead, 9% critique and 90% are active readers. The important part is to participate in a way that fit your personality. 

Understand your digital discovery journeys

Digital play a growing role in delivering the buying experience. Where you guide customers along a buying journey. Starting in the digital domain with the first steps. Before the first interaction with a sales professional in your team. Digital change your marketing in two characteristic ways. First, digital discovery journeys guide customers from initial interest to buying decision. Second, your focus shift from how/what you want to sell to how customers want to buy. With extensive learning in each step along the journey.

Aspire to understand the digital discovery journeys you have defined for your customers. Take an active role in consuming your own content. And bring sales and marketing together in collaborating around these journeys.

Learn the role of lean flows across your business

Digital businesses are faster than their classic peers. Leaving little room for idle sections in your customer value adding flows. You need lean execution flows to deliver on your promises. Lean in this context is about minimizing hand-over points. And time used for each hand over. This is the essence of lean. And an area where classic operational silos is your biggest enemy. Well defined and fine-tuned flows is a prerequisite for transforming your business.

Aspire to learn lean fundamentals tied to your main customer value adding flows. Digitalization of internal flows is an essential part of your digital transformation journey. Flows that need to be lean before a digitalization can be fruitful.

Understand strategic data and algorithms assets

Your customer value adding flows contain large quantities of data today. Data with potential to be interpreted well. Digital businesses collect way more data than their peers. Data alone is often useless, unless complemented by powerful algorithms. Algorithms designed around specific business needs, and your digital operating model.

Aspire to understand the data you collect and the insights you want to extract in each flow today. How it will change as you become more digital. And how you can turn it into actionable management information. as a basis for investing in suitable development of algorithms.

Craft creative collaboration communities

Digital businesses develop across internal and external organizational boundaries. An innovation process where insights gained from customers and eco-system partners are vital. This new reality demand new competence profiles and an environment stimulating creative collaborations. A central leadership role is to define, establish and nurture collaborative communities. Business internal as well as external ones involving customers and eco-system partners. A new environment where you attract hearts and minds. Focused around the mission critical innovation areas you build your digital strategy on.

Aspire to understand how to craft and promote collaboration communities. Both within your company and with crucial stakeholders. And realize your team want to see you active to see consider it a priority.

Develop digital courage to lead in VUCA terrain

Leading digital businesses takes courage, a lot of courage. The nature of the digital market place drive the need for digital courage. An environment where vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) are table stakes. Managing your classic business is about optimizing the well-known. A reality where you ask for and can expect clear answers. The digital business represents unknown territory. Where you lead with new questions and gradual increase of clarity. Rather than sticking to proven questions and complete answers.

Consider digital courage to be a core part of your digital capabilities. A prerequisite to take faster, partial decision in a market characterized by VUCA. and adopt in a fast changing market place.

Learn and share experiences on a daily basis

Showing what we don’t know about our classic business is a signal of weakness. We reward control and what we know, and keep shortcomings close to our chest. Driving a digital business is different. By sharing what you have learnt today you send two strong signals. You learn daily, and you expect your team to follow. Your share your learnings, and you promote collaborations. Two vital elements in developing a fast learning organization.

Aspire to lead by example with your own personal learning and sharing. Steep learning curves is the norm in digital businesses. Both for your team and your customers. A growth requiring attention to be as steep and fast as possible.

Adopt quarterly execution around a few priorities

Yearly targets and annual performance reviews don’t fit in a digital environment. You need to execute in shorter stints with focus on a few things at a time. Shift operational focus to quarterly goals and a handful of priorities. A move creating both focus and a sense of urgency. A journey easier said than done. When your classic business operates with yearly targets and daily actions. The first test of your leadership skills is if you can restrict your priorities to a selected few. And if your goal formulations are sharp enough to enable consistent quarterly delivery. A challenge similar to our college/university studies defined by few classes each semester.

Aspire to develop your skills to lead teams and individuals towards quarterly goals. An art harder to master, but rewarding once adopted in teams and for individuals.

Understand current classic and future digital culture

Taking a business through a digital transformation journey is major undertaking. and it is about in changing company culture. Where both the current company culture and the digital target culture is in play. How much and how fast you want to change your culture will define your chances to succeed. A journey where clarity on existing and wanted behavior play a central role.

Aspire to become a wizard at understanding company cultures when going digital. Behaviors generating rewards. Behaviors resulting in punishments. You need both sticks and carrots to move your organization in the digital playground.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. What does the digital leadership smorgasboard look like? Consider this blogpost as 10 areas as a baseline to build from.
  2. Which digital leadership capabilities do my business need now? Start with an urgent areas and plan to learn in steps.
  3. Where do I want to start my personal digital transformation journey? Dare to pick something you can succeed with.
  4. What can I encourage peers and my team to pick-up on? Inspire people around you to address what you cannot do on your own.

Additional reading suggestions

One thought on “10 digital leadership skills leaders want to possess

  1. Pingback: Self-assessment – Digital leadership skills | Tweeter Linder

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