What does it take to be a successful digital leader?

In today’s workplace, it is not enough to be a great leader. You have to be great digital leader.  But what does that entail? We highlight some of the key attributes.


In this the 21st century, we cannot get away from the term “digital”. As discussed in our recent article on digital literacy, we have moved past focussing just on computers and computing. ‘Digital’ encompasses so much more, including data, social, mobility and cloud. More importantly, we all are expected to become increasingly digital, even in the workplace –starting at the top. But what does it take to be a ‘digital leader’? We outline some key attributes successful digital leaders possess.

Digital fluency

Similar to the fact that in a general sense we would not expect a leader to just be literate, but rather fluent in a particular language, we expect our leaders to be digitally fluent, not just literate. Literacy suggests a having knowledge of a particular subject, but what a leadership demands is proficiency: fluency. It thus means that leaders’ way of thinking must be continually consider and integrate a digital approach into day-to-day activities, and their overall approach to managing their organisations.

Nurturing a digital team

With technology developments still occurring at a rapid rate, there is a constant need for leaders and their employees to keep abreast. As a result, digital leaders encourage their teams to continually upgrade their skills: become even more literate and prepared for the inevitable changes that are occurring, and thus be able to add value, and customers’ attitudes and expectations also evolve.

Embracing lean

Consistent with the increasing speed of change, businesses in particular no longer have the luxury of time to implement complex and long-winded decision-making or testing processes. It is now crucial to be agile and responsive to the changing environment. In order to so, organisations need to become leaner, which would include becoming more streamlined in their operations and in their decision making.

Embracing risk

Coupled with becoming leaner, today’s business leaders need to be prepared to embrace risk. This does not mean being reckless, but rather, to appreciate that will the rapid changes occurring in both the business and technology landscapes, things are never truly settled and fully understood. Decisions need to be made with incomplete information, and so risk must be managed. Digital leaders would thus foster a culture in their organisations of being willing to experiment, and to fail.

Using data and not just technology

Finally, although there would be a focus on technology – to improve systems and processes in an organisation, information is crucial to managing risk and making informed decisions. It therefore means that collecting, processing and analysing data, to produce valuable information, are integral to the organisation, and not at afterthought – left to chance and speculation.


Image credit:  Tina Nord (Pexels)


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