How to be a Great Leader in the Digital Age

You’ll be relieved to hear that I thought I would give Schumpeter, Gartner, MIT Sloan and Star Wars a rest this week.  I often read and discuss digital transformation and (as Carlo Gagliardi says) needing a business strategy for the digital age rather than just a digital strategy. Many influencers do a wonderful job of mapping out ways to transform in the form of CIO toolkits and priorities for 2016 which I often draw on from a technology standpoint. This generally involves getting to the cloud as quick as you can, adopting mobile, new applications and processes, communicating effectively and disrupting traditional business methods. It is about competing in a world that we no longer understand in the way that we have done before. The right technology and the right strategy to partner with smaller, agile companies to bring innovation and engage your people in uncertain times, is often my focus. I want to focus today on different questions; asking not what we need to do to successfully digitally transform but how do we need to think in order to be a leader in the digital age.
To attempt to answer this, I delve into BCG’s Roselinde Torres’ extensive expertise and studies on what it takes to be a great leader. For some, a leader may conjure the image of an all knowing superhero that stands, commands and protects followers. Sound outdated? It is, as outdated as the success models for a world that was – not a world that is or that is coming. She asks the key questions: what are great leaders doing distinctively differently to thrive and what are the preparation practices that enable people to grow to their potential?
In the 21st century global, digitally enabled and transparent world with faster speeds of information flow and innovation; decisions are made with a complex matrix. It is clear that relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader. Roselinde concludes that leadership in 21st century is defined and evidenced by 3 questions:

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate the next change to your business model or your life?

The answer is on your calendar. Who are you spending time with, where are you travelling, what are you reading? How are you distilling this into understanding potential discontinuities and make a decision to do something right now so that you’re prepared? Great leaders are not head down; they see around corners. They are shaping their future and not just reacting to it.

  1. What is the diversity measure of your personal and professional network?

We hear a lot about old boys networks but we all have a network of people that we are comfortable with. It comes down to your capacity to develop relationships with people that are very different from you. As a leader, despite differences people connect with you and trust you enough to cooperate with you in achieving a shared goal.  Great leaders understand that having a diverse network is a source of solutions because people are thinking differently than you. mhub allows great leaders to truly connect across the whole diverse network and workforce on a global scale using innovative technology.

  1. Are you courageous enough to abandon a practice that has made you successful in the past?

This is the key difference. Will you just keep doing what’s familiar and comfortable?
The truth is that great leaders dare to be different; they don’t just talk about risk taking, they actually do it. The most impactful development comes when you are able to build the emotional stamina to withstand people telling you that your new idea is naïve or reckless or stupid. The people that will join you are not the usual suspects in your network, they are people that think differently and therefore are willing to join you in taking a courageous leap (and it is a leap not a step). mhub is helping the leaders from some of the world’s largest companies to take this leap together as a business.
Answering these 3 questions will determine your effectiveness as a 21st century leader. It is the women and men preparing themselves, not seeking comfort and predictability but seeing the reality of today and unknown possibilities of tomorrow that are great leaders in the digital age.
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