When you look through the vast literature about digital transformation, every article & white paper contains a final section on leadership. With very few exceptions, the capabilities called out are a replay of the usual suspects: vision, alignment, people, results… with no indication of what’s new/different about leading in a truly digital world.
Over the last decade, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside numerous blue-chip brands as they’ve embarked upon reinventing their business models through digital. From these experiences, as well as from research, I see that “digital leadership” does have its own unique DNA — a set of distinctive capabilities for driving growth, change & disruption… at scale.
Digital Leaders “spike” — possess strengths & mastery — in these 6 disciplines:
- Connecting the dots: An uncanny ability to stitch together disparate trends, technologies & talents — translating deep uncertainty & complexity into strategic clarity.
- Moving with velocity: They favor speed over perfection, acting with urgency in the direction of an end-game vision. Rapidly figure out the future through prototyping, instead of planning.
- Building leap-frog platforms: Stretching the canvas to envision where business will gravitate to in 3-5 years; and then crafting strategies that will create/capture that exponential value.
- Transforming the customer’s world: Manically focused on making the customers life better through simplicity, convenience and an unparalleled experience.
- Sustaining a much larger ambition: The expansive visions made possible by digital demand a deep reservoir of discipline to follow through, no matter the adversity. A staggering drive to win — not at all costs, but for the greater good.
- Being an incubator of top talents: While every extraordinary leader is a magnet for talent, the best digital leaders take this to the next level. Assembling a stunning array of data scientists, business strategists, enterprise architects, app developers & experience designers; and establishing an environment where creative abrasion unlocks unimaginable potential.
Unlike the dot-com heyday, digital is not a flash in the pan that will fade with the next “great” recession. The platforms & technologies, underlying the digital revolution, are not just building buzz; but, they are quantifiably reconfiguring the basis of competition, across markets around the globe.
For leaders, the time is now. To reframe what business is about in the 21st century. And reinvent how one leads and wins in this disruptive world.