Digital Leadership - should include skills from entrepreneurship and innovation

Mandag, 15. februar 2016

A leader today cannot ignore the developments in digital technology.  Companies and organisations in every walk of life are faced with the disruptive effects of digital technologies, and as a leader you need to deal with this fact. Therefore Digital Leadership must be a part of every leader's portfolio of leadership skills in both private and public organizations.

So what is Digital Leadership? Is it using IT/Digital tools from e-mails over Skype/Lync as a part of your personal leadership, or is it something delegated to the part of the organization working with IT? In this post I argue that the most important competencies needed in Digital Leadership are 1. Transformational 2. Entrepreneurial 3. Innovative. The following is just a starting point and ideas to consider based on the context of a given organization.

The transformational view

The ultimate goal of Digital Leadership is for the leader to make sure that she uses digitization as much as possible. Digital technology should be worked into all solutions and organisational processes where it add value. Leadership on this scale should be transformational. Digitization is often linked to disruption because it opens up for new ways of doing things, and there major changes are necessary. Jobs and their required competencies change fast. It will not be minor adjustments.

The leader needs to establish a transformational purpose, to communicate it and create an environment that supports, challenges and encourages employees. For Transformational Leadership to succeed it has to have a purpose beyond optimization and earning a better return on investment. It has to have an aim that somehow also makes our world a better place to live. The leader must then use this transformational purpose to decide which additional leadership skills he needs to be practice. From motivation over support and recognition to building the trust based relationships necessary for a transformational journey.

The entrepreneurial view.

The mindset of an entrepreneur is a must is a must for a digital leader, not least because the leader should be working at the front of what is possible. Inventing new and digital solutions to challenges in a continous proces. Then what are the main characteristics of a successfull entrepreneur? Professor David Hall, who has researched the way entrepreneurs start and build high growth business, has identified 6 important competencies -

Getting into the Zone
Being able to create momentum, to be able to create a vision - as mentioned above create a transformational purpose

Opening up to the World
Connecting with those who can help. Creating internal and external networks and partnerships that enable the business do develop digitally.

Seeing Possibilities
Developing a way to look at the world in wholes - taking in new perspectives and taking in information in new ways.

Creating Superior Opportunities
Identifying the challenges of the customers and transforming this to digital based results

Staying in the Zone
Being able to prioritize and not to loose focus while creating sequences of actions in order to reach a specific vision or goal.

Building Capability
Developing the business capacity to perform successfull

Not all leaders have all of these competencies and some - like building capabilities - might already be present in your organization. Have a look at your organisation to find the already existing entrepreneurial strengths and get them in the driver's seat integrating digital technology in the organization. Then find and choose what additional entrepreneurial competencies are needed and look at how to build those. Maybe they should be found externally and brought in when needed.

You can find more about this research and the model by clicking here.

The Innovative view

The practice of Digital Leadership that transforms organisations and create new products and services demands different innovative leadership styles. It means that the leader must know the different leadership styles that support the process of innovation in an organization.  The main roles to look for have been described by Lotte Darsø in her book "Innovation in the Making". They are:

  • The gardener, who looks after the relations between people working together
  • The jester, who stimulates divergent questions and new ways of looking at the world
  • The conceptualizer, who suports the process of creating overview and understanding of complex new information
  • The challenger, who helps to qualify the creation of knowledge and solutions

Again it is not necessary that one leader masters of all roles, but each organisation need to look for what is needed and develop it either as part of leadership training, organizational processes and design or look for other ways to transfer the styles from outside the organization.

The innovative leadership styles is part of the Diamond of Innovation described in the book "Innovation in the making" by Lotte Darsø.

These are my thoughts on what an organization should consider when wanting to develop Digital Leadership. Hopefully this will provide inspiration to you when developing Digital Leadership in your organization.

This post was written by Susanne Kandrup