A New Leader In The Digital Age

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In the digital age,the role of a Leader is expected to be very challenging in view of the emergence of disruptive technologies.  A new leader who can effectively draw value from a large number of data,yet to combine this with creative thinking and inspiring visions.

Especially in the present times when competition is very severe, Leader’s radar system should cover strategy, talent, culture, and cash flows. The leader should have a very robust understanding of strategy implementation. He should know that a good talent pool is a lifeline of the organisation and hence should know talent identification, development and retention process. He should keep an eye on culture and it should have a strong touch of independence, innovation and intellectual respect for people who work in the organisation.

Although leadership competencies are to be organisation specific however, experts say that effective leaders at the helm of the affairs in every company irrespective of the size and based on their positions in the hierarchy must have integrity &trust, ethics & value, and customer focus.

Today, organizations need a completely different kind of a leader: a digital leader who understands the impact of breakthrough technologies on business, has managerial capabilities, and is comfortable with peoples’relationships.

He has a good grip of the markets in terms of competition, customers and vendors. A new leader should be capable in building teams, keeping people connected and engaged, and driving a culture of innovation. He should also have an appetite for risk tolerance, and continuous improvement. Let us understand three important dimensions which impact the new leader behaviour:

In the digital economy, the knowledge or skill sets are not the prerogative of select few or only the experienced ones, therefore a new leader will have to bring in a lot of consultative and collaborate style in his leadership to get best out of the people for the benefits of the organisation.

TECHNOLOGY – NEW DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT

The digital leader should familiarize himself with the transitioning process from the knowledge society to a digital society. The entire ecosystem has created a digital culture the impact such changes in the organisation.

He must have the vision and outlookidentifytechnology trends across different sectors, such as big data, cloud computing,robotics, apps, 3D printing. However, first and foremost leader must possess sufficient knowledge and the vision to use these resources most effectively.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming mainstream in business, and organizations already see the benefits. Based on the survey, here are a few key takeaways and guiding principles that may help business leaders navigate change as AI further permeates the business landscape.  Put people first.

Experts say that Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics will make a dramatic impact on business processes and thereby create a big challenge for the lead.  Experts say that AI is all about software technologies which allow robots and computer to deliver better that normal human computational accuracy, speed and capacity. For example,Machine Learning, Robotics, Rational Agent and Chatbots.

MANAGEMENT – BUSINESS APPRECIATION

Leader of tomorrow should be able to predict betterin view of BAR,(block chain, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics), led technologies in the organisations. Thereby, how they work at the workplace will be redefined and in view of this redefinition, how the work is to be re-allocated to the workforce.

Also,an important area to be seen that whether the workforce is fully ready and trained,for planning and executing the re-defined work. A leader must have a knowledge to appreciate and recreate the work, workplace and workforce in view of the change that digital technologies will force upon organisations.  It is difficult to assess how the workplace will look like. As most of the transaction processes today are happening through the virtual world.

The erosion of organizational silos is an opportunity to develop as a leader. Many executives expect training to deliver the leadership skills they will require in future. Some believe they will need experience in other industries.

LEADERSHIP 

PEOPLE ALIGNMENT – INSPIRE, INFLUENCE AND IMPACT

A leader will be required to constantly align people with organizational strategy, hence he will have to identify, inspire, influence and create an impact on people through his charismatic leadership style.  Let us understand leadership lifecycle as he navigates in the organizational hierarchy both vertically and laterally.

Personal Leadership

Robust leadership is regarded as one of the best predictors of organizational success. Leadership is a responsibility towards self and others. It is highly complex and often misunderstood therefore mis interpreted phenomenon.

Personal Leadership really hasa great deal of self-awareness about who you are, what you can do, where you are going together with  the ability to impact your communication, emotions and behavioursin the way to getting there.Personal leadership is the process by which you impact yourself to achieve your objectives.

Personal leadership is a process of Self Observation and Self-Management. It impacts all aspects of your life, your health, your career and your relationships. Personal leaders are self-motivated to take real action with a purpose and therefore make better leaders, entrepreneurs, and team members.

  • Personal leadership is able to lead yourself successfully in an ever-changing competitive world to achieve your objectives.
  • Ambitious people will have longer shelf life vs other ambitious people. Ambitious leader will have confidence, courage, commitment, self-awareness, self, observation, self-regulation self-management, self-development, self- improvement and time management. self- belief – is state that whatever comes my way I can handle that with my strengths and improve further by taking confidence.

Team Leadership

The leaders of tomorrow place more emphasis on interpersonal skills. They believe that the ability to manage across functions will become a more important leadership skill in the next three years, thanks to digital disruption, and most of the leaders say internal networking will be more important in the future. Leadership must be driven by an attitude of openness and a genuine hunger for knowledge.

On the team leadership the challenge for a leader is to understand self and understand his followers on a deeper level to achieve higher levels of interpersonal skills

The skill sets needed will include motivation, communication, conflict management, team dynamics, managing power and politics in the team setting and the development of a healthy organizational culture.

These “people skills” rank among the most challenging competencies for both novice and experienced leaders. As a leader, he should keep asking the following questions:

  • How to better train, develop, engage, motivate and alignfollowers?
  • How to Improve skills in identifying, improving and transforming dysfunctional teams?
  • How to Develop more effective strategies for dealing with and resolving workplace conflicts?
  • How to establish a work culture that brings out the best in others?

Business leadership

As a business leader, he should have clarity about the vision, mission, values, governance and functional competencies needed to succeed in the modern organisation.

He must know the leadership responsibilities, those transitioning between leadership roles or organizations. A new leader must know impact disruptive technologies will have on the organisation and accordingly learn the following on a continuous basis:

  • Articulating vision
  • Decision making
  • Strategy development
  • Change management
  1. How to prepare for and assume a leadership role
  2. Determining an organization’s current situation and a vision for its future
  3. Developing a strategy, a team, and a culture for success
  4. Sustaining your organisation for the challenges ahead

Strategic Leadership

In today’s environment, companies could not have the luxuries to think in terms of five-year strategic plans.  Disruptive technologies are forcing business trends to shift constantly, as a result strategy formulation and execution need to happen concurrently and effectively in a seamless feedback loop.

Leaders must be trained and developed to navigate in ultra-fast, complex, global business environment. Leaders working in the digitally driven global organization should know how to manage these complex and challenging issues, Creating Value in ever evolving and challenging environment of VUCA, which means:

Volatile: The environment liable to change rapidly and unpredictably for the worse – explosive, tense and turbulent.

Uncertain: Not completely confident – sense of doubtful, unsure, vague and indecisive.

Complex: consisting of many different and connected parts – network systems – real and imaginary.

Ambiguous: open to debate, open to argument, pen to more than one interpretation – not having obvious meanings.

Response and Transparency:This response to digital disruption seems to provide the best opportunity to emerge as stronger, more future-ready leaders.That will require many executives to step outside of conventional corporate comfort zones, to challenge old ways of doing things and push back the boundaries.

A new leader will have to understand the meaning of Build transparency into every aspect of the business. Transparency will be a critical measurement of an organization’s commitment to its stakeholders.

In this environment, business leaders will need to rapidly and radically evolve their leading people, managing business skills, in a digitized environmentto maximize both, while driving towards a shared future.

Technology presents infinite possibilities. Whether to generate ideas or propagate the vision across the organization, and digital age leaders must be able to harness this power creatively to benefit their organizations. Technology can be a great leveler, enabling every individual to realize their potential.

To conclude, I believe that it is management that drives strategy, a leader who sets and drives culture, and talent which creates and absorbs the technology.  A great new leader will have a strong combination of strong personality traits, right driving values, new age competencies, diverse and contemporary experience.


Author-Rakesh Seth, Leadership Consultant, Chief HR Mentor, Author, Speaker. He is Ex. CHRO of Lloyds, Tata, Thapar, Everest and many other organisations.  He brings in his consulting and training a strong blend of academic and practice.  He is a Visiting Professor to many well know business schools in Delhi – NCR.  He is international speaker.  He is author of a famous book “Every Manager Should Know HR”.  He is educated from Delhi University and IIM Calcutta.

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