The ideal leader profile isn’t what it used to be. Company leaders can no longer sit alone in their offices, far removed from the staff who do the work to keep business humming. Now, leadership at all levels is expected to be more engaged, involved and approachable. Walking the walk is now even more important than just talking the talk. These hands-on traits are especially important as you’re faced with leading a team or an entire organization through digital transformation.
A Harvard Business Review report, Driving Digital Transformation: New Skills for Leaders, New Role for the CIO, found businesses that qualify as digital leaders are more likely than those trailing them to have:
- Revenue growth over 10%
- Profit margins that are greater than the industry average
- A CEO who understands digital opportunities and threats
- A CIO who is a digital master or digital coach
- A clearly defined digital vision and strategy
- Digitally proficient leaders at multiple levels
But what sorts of traits do these aforementioned “digitally proficient leaders” have? It’s one thing to qualify a CEO as “understanding digital opportunities” or a CIO as a “digital master,” but how do those traits translate into a successful digital strategy, and how do other leaders across the organization stand out and succeed in a quickly-changing world?
If you’re looking for ways to get in front of the digital revolution and make yourself irreplaceable as your company digitizes, congratulations –you’re already positioning yourself well to be a digital leader. After all, waiting around for digital transformation to happen to your organization is one of the surest ways to be left behind.
Beyond recognizing that your company needs to start preparing for digital transformation now, here are five other traits you can begin cultivating to make yourself an irreplaceable leader during the process:
1. Practice agility and flexibility, and learn to recognize it in others. If you’re used to relying on your job description and a static set of skills, you need to shift your mindset. Sure, experience as a CMO and apparent wizardry at Excel pivot tables are important, but with technology, analytics and datasets changing so quickly, it’s even more important to be agile. Become someone who jumps at the chance to learn a new skill or try a new way of doing things. When you’re hiring, look for these traits in potential employees, as well. In the age of digital transformation, quick, enthusiastic, adaptable learners are priceless.
2. Don’t be afraid to fail, and encourage risk-taking in your team. One major benefit of digitization is that it lends itself well to rapid iteration and trying new things. For example, if you begin building your mobile app one way and realize right after launch that your customers would prefer different features, you’ve lost little time and gained valuable insight to what works.
3. Listen at scale and provide feedback. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time – a lesson that applies to both your team and your customer base. But listen to the comments, concerns and ideas of both groups – if you begin to hear any commonalities in their opinions, take them seriously. Consider what it would mean to implement practices that your employees and customers are both asking for. Then, let them know they’ve been heard. Even if the change they’re asking for isn’t possible, it’s important to let them know their leaders are listening.
4. Break down departmental barriers. When you hire agile, flexible, innovative thinkers, they don’t want to work in silos. They want to bounce their ideas off coworkers who can help make them reality. These notions aren’t folly, and they won’t discourage productivity. Instead, allowing your employees to test out new ideas can help keep them engaged at work and lead to some brilliant outcomes. Encouraging collaboration and invention among your people is a hallmark of an invaluable digital leader.
5. Focus on customer experience, and learn to see the end rather than the means. It’s easy be consumed meeting all your quarterly target numbers, such as leads, web traffic, click-thrus and conversion rates. While these metrics matter very much – they’re how you measure progress, profitability and goal attainment – they aren’t the entire end game. No matter what your organization does, your ultimate success depends on customer experience., from first content, to ongoing engagement. Keep your focus on the customer, allocate appropriate resources, and make sure your teams are doing the same.