In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the role of a leader has transformed significantly. With the increasing integration of technology into every aspect of our lives, being a digital leader has become more essential than ever. The most successful digital leaders of the modern age give their team the canvas to express themselves, encourage challenges to the traditional daily groundhog routine but steer the ship from afar and remain in mind, whilst out of sight.

This blog explores six key strategies that can help you become a digital leader who can guide your organisation through the digital age.

Steer with data wisdom

Data is the lifeblood of any business in the modern world. It can help businesses understand their customers, optimize their processes, improve their products and services, and gain a competitive edge. However, data alone is not enough. Businesses need to know how to utilise and leverage data effectively and efficiently to achieve their goals and objectives.

The fascinating rise of Brighton & Hove Albion FC demonstrates the importance of data, in a slightly different but relevant manner. Tony Bloom (professional gambler turned data wizard) has utilised his understanding of one of the most advanced statistical models, used to generate betting odds, for talent identification. Starlizard, owned by Bloom, provide sports analytics services for betting companies which allows them to generate odds far more accurately than those offered by professional bookmakers.

However, Blooms ability to transfer this knowledge to the pitch has led to continuous acquisition of favourable talent. Once a homeless team in the fourth tier after having to sell their ground, they are now in the top flight of English football. The power of data cannot be understated.

To promote the use of data:

  • Identify, combine and manage multiple sources of data.
  • Build advanced analytics models for predicting and optimising outcomes.
  • If the data is rich and trustworthy, take the gut-feel out of the decision and let the data make the decision.
Curiosity doesn’t kill cats, conformity does

Digital leaders are not afraid to take risks and experiment with new technologies and strategies. Dyson created 5,127 different prototypes between 1979 and 1984 before settling on their vacuum cleaner creation (Dyson, 2023). Experimentation is crucial for staying ahead in a rapidly changing landscape. It allows you to identify what works and what doesn’t, enabling your organisation to adapt and grow.

Be willing to experiment:

  • Create a culture that encourages a penchant for calculated risk-taking.
  • Set up pilot projects to test new ideas, and technologies and create a safe space for team members to go and ‘try’.
  • Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and pivot when necessary. Reward team members for sharing failure stories with colleagues.
Be a lifelong learner

In the digital era, innovation is a constant requirement. Leaders must foster an environment that encourages learning and the development of new skills and capabilities among team members. This not only includes technical skills but also soft skills like adaptability, creativity and critical thinking. CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, perfectly exemplifies a character who pursues learning within the digital space.

To give context, rather than continuing with the age-old ERP, which Musk noted was inflexible and far too expensive, he recruited Jay Vijayan from VMWare. Within four months, Vijayan and his team (championed by Musk) spun up a fully functional end-to-end ERP on Mendix’s low-code platform.

Developing the traits of being a lifelong learner:

  • Provide your team with access to training and resources for skill development and learning on-the-job. Don’t merely encourage them but measure them on their continuous learning and ability to apply the learning in their roles.
  • Persistently nudge staff to cross-functional collaboration, rewarding team members that engage stakeholders and internal clients and proactively problem-solve initiatives with other functional colleagues.
Converse in digital language

Digital fluency is not just about understanding the latest gadgets or apps; it’s about comprehending the broader digital ecosystem. As a digital leader, it’s crucial to stay updated on technological advancements, industry trends and digital strategies relevant to your organisation. This fluency will enable informed decision-making and make communication with team members more effective. This new-found language requires leaders to explore the challenges presented by the digital economy and hone their ability to spot opportunities this new and exciting economy presents.

According to a 2020 Harvard Business Review article on Digital Skills, it was anticipated that there were around 500,000 unfilled technology-related jobs in the US. It was thought that this was fundamentally linked to organisations not providing their staff with digitally enhanced experiences, tech-enabled business processes and the speed in which they use data to make a decision.

Enhance your digital fluency:

  • Invest time in self-learning and training programs. This includes anything from LinkedIn learning to Ted Talks.
  • Engage with industry experts and thought leaders in your area of speciality. Be curious, challenge their norms and don’t be afraid to ask ‘stupid’ questions, if you do not then there is a danger of remaining ignorant of technology and innovation.
Understand technology’s societal impact

Being digitally savvy means more than just understanding technology; it also requires an awareness of how technology is reshaping society and industries. For example, the big data’s impact on personalisation, prices and experience in the supermarket industry will prove to be striking. As a digital leader, you must recognise the broader implications of these transformations and translate them into business strategies.

To understand technology’s societal impact:

  • Stay informed about tech-driven societal changes.
  • Collaborate with experts in areas like ethics and cybersecurity.
  • Develop a strategic roadmap that aligns with societal and business trends.
Work with machines and co-create the future environment

Machines don’t bite, not yet anyway. Digital leadership thrives in collaborative environments where information flows freely and team members can contribute their diverse expertise. Collaboration fosters innovation, accelerates decision-making and enhances problem-solving – increasing the likelihood of business success. Adversely, a Salesforce report showed that Executives argue ineffective collaboration is a major contributing factor to 86% of business failures. Lack of machine implementation creates an opportunity cost vast enough to produce a breakdown, evidently, it is not worth the risk.

To promote collaborative environments:

  • Implement digital tools and platforms that facilitate communication and knowledge sharing. For example, Miro is a great platform for digital collaboration.
  • Encourage open and inclusive discussions during team meetings.
  • Lead by example by actively participating in collaborative efforts.

Becoming a digital leader is not a destination; it’s an ongoing journey of adaptation and growth. Be forever curious, learn the digital dialect, nurture new capabilities and foster a culture of experimentation and collaboration within your organisation. By understanding the societal impact of technology and translating it into effective business strategies, you can lead your team confidently into the digital future. Digital leadership is not just about staying ahead of the curve; it’s about shaping the future of your organisation in the digital age.

If you are interested in discussing digital leadership, then get in touch with 4C Associates via Allison Ford-Langstaff (Partner), Mark Ellis (Partner), Joe Gibson (Head of Digital Innovation) or Harry Gordon (Digital Analyst) and we’ll be happy to help.