The Essential Traits of Effective Digital Leaders

Posted by Pete Heard | April, 19, 2017

As a business executive in today’s highly technological world, being effective at managing staff isn’t always enough. With the recent trend of digital enterprises taking hold of almost every industry on a global level, business executives and managers have to become effective digital leaders as well. This means that many businesses need to stop experimenting with digital and commit to becoming fully digital businesses if they want to grow and succeed.

Just what is being a digital leader and what does it mean? Digital leadership can be defined as the strategic use of a company’s digital assets to achieve its business goals. Digital leadership can be addressed at both organizational and individual levels and should be a part of every business owner’s strategy.

We have created a list of important traits that all successful digital leaders share and we’d like to share them with you today:

Trait #1: Be unreasonably aspirational

Being unreasonably aspirational may seem like an antagonistic move by many professionals but it does have its place in the digital business world. Digital leaders need to think differently from their counterparts when it comes to how a digital business operates. Digital leaders must set goals that may seem unreasonable to others, but they are key to the digital leader’s business strategy. Being “unreasonable” can convince their team to begin seeing digital as a business that creates value, rather than drives activities.

Trait #2: Acquire capabilities

The skills required for a successful digital transformation can’t always be groomed entirely from within. A successful digital leader understands that he or she must acquire the capabilities needed and realise those that aren’t yet developed within their team. Even if you have to look to another industry for your digital talent and choose skills over experience, it will help create a stronger, more successful digital company overall.

Trait #3: ‘Ring fence’ and cultivate talent

Digital talent needs to be nurtured differently than what we are used to. It takes its own working patterns, sandbox and tools to ensure a strong team that will be able to utilize their skills and ideas to ensure the company’s success.

Trait #4: Challenge everything

An effective digital leader will challenge everything. This includes the status quo and the historical norms that they have learned. Why do you offer the products or services that you do? How can you change them? What can you do to make them better? These are things that your competition is asking themselves, so why shouldn’t you?

Trait #5: Be quick and data driven

Rapid decision making is critical in the digital environment. The days of 12 month product release cycles are over and businesses need to become more proactive with their schedules and the timing of their operations. Digital leaders need to move to a cycle of continuous delivery and improvement, adopting methods such as agile development and “live beta,” supported by big data analytics, to increase the pace of innovation. To continually improve, digital leaders must continue to experiment.

Trait #6: Follow the money

Average digital leaders will focus their digital investments on customer facing solutions, but effective digital leaders will invest in back office functions as they drive operational efficiencies. Taking your business digital is about more than just finding new streams of revenue, it is about creating more value for your company by reducing the costs of doing business.

Trait #7: Be obsessed with the customer

Is being obsessed with the customer a bad thing? We have been taught that customers are important but we shouldn’t place all of our focus on them as we could lose sight of other, equally important, aspects of our business. The reason an effective digital leader obsesses over their customers is that they need to improve the customer experience across all channels of their business due to the increase in customer expectations we are seeing today. Customers want the same experience when shopping online that they receive in a retail store and vice versa. They want friendly service that is helpful online, and they want a wide selection that is readily available along with a fast checkout experience personalised to their needs.

As a digital leader, should you only adopt one or two of these traits? Obviously, that wouldn’t be enough and if they want to develop their digital business, they need to practice all of these traits and lead by example. Effective digital leaders will learn to excel at all of them and instill these traits into their team to ensure the success of their digital company.

Connect with the author :

Pete Heard is the founder of Logic Room. He helps organisations create web and mobile software using JavaScript and the related ecosystem of technologies such as React, React Native, Node, Angular and Typescript.

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