It is often said that organizations are as good as their leaders. Numerous studies are there to pinpoint the key attributes of organizational leaders. A new turn is now becoming evident with the emergence of digital enterprise and the role expectation from the leaders concerned. At the core of such a new domain lies the realization that in the new business environment of the digital enterprise the same features that were identified as ‘fundamental’ to the leadership cannot be mechanically applied. Hence the search for the prime leadership attributes goes on with renewed vigor.
The attributes have some commonality with the leadership of the pre-digital era but the common elements have to be adapted to the digital ecosystem in order to get efficient and effective leadership.
In a much-acclaimed study, Randstad, a global firm of flexible work and human resource services, made a survey of 3,000 workers to identify five essential abilities of digital leaders. They are the ability to keep people connected and engaged, to be more agile and digitally savvy, have the drive for a culture of innovation, propensity for learning and continuous improvement, and to be adept at risk-taking. With such abilities of the leaders the study refers to five “critical leadership traits” in a post-digital workplace: inspiring others; leveraging technology; encouraging collaboration; driving innovation and managing risk.
Inspiring employees is important because the more inspired they are the more positive the environment will be in the workplace. People concerned must feel inspired to act as a team. It will also lead to better productivity. Inspired employees will contribute to profit-making by investing in hard work, and all of this will ensure collective well-being. Proper inspiration modes such as encouraging creativity and reward system, and appropriate communication are important requirements.
With the knowledge of leveraging technology for better business strategy, the digitally-savvy leaders will be capable of utilizing data and employing new technologies in making crucial decisions. It is suggested that they must also have the proven capacity to leverage automation, intelligence, internal effectiveness, and competitive advantage. It is also noted that the digitally savvy leaders will be at ease in using cognitive digital technology in talent acquisition and utilizing people analytics to improve employee engagement and adapt to the highly dynamic changes brought forth by the digital era.
In the vital task of encouraging collaboration, the leadership has followed these roads: sharing the company’s mission repeatedly; explicit communication about what is expected from collaboration; rationalizing the possibility of collaboration based on the company’s strength, both material and human; promoting a friendly work environment with open and democratic communication; sharing knowledge, insight, and resources; valuing and rewarding successful teamwork in concrete terms.
A culture of innovation is integrally connected to leadership because it helps to break the glass ceiling that might be pre-existing from the pre-digital era. To create and sustain an innovative culture the leaders must clearly define their end goals and desired outcomes. They must also give the employees some freedom to achieve the desired results with creativity. The leaders have to challenge the business status quo in a tactical way that will make way for better innovation. For this purpose, the easy route may be avoided as they are anti-innovation in nature. The innovative culture should also encourage employees to share ideas and criticisms regardless of company rank or role.
Managing risks calls for controlling to the extent possible the future outcomes by acting proactively rather than reactively. If the leaders are capable of it, they will greatly reduce both the possibility of a risk occurring and its potential impact. In identifying, assessing, and controlling risks the leadership is to calculate the uncertainties and predict their influence on a business. It plays a central role in making a choice between acceptance or rejection of risks
To sum up, the elevation from an executive to a leader in an extremely competitive business environment depends on acquiring and cultivating the aforementioned attributes.